When Nynex announced plans in September to trim managerial ranks by 5%, the regional phone company tried to soften the blow by offering laid-off workers outplacement assistance. But that by no means will end their job-hunting woes. "Most people think we're some kind of combination career counselor and executive recruiter that finds them a job," says Marshall Stellfox, who assists unemployed senior execs at Stellfox Associates Inc. in New York. "Well, we can help, but finding a job is up to them."
A survey of 1,800 companies by consultants Towers Perrin found that 20% expect layoffs in 1992. So even the most secure manager should be familiar with outplacement. If the ax falls, don't be as surprised as Robert F. Bettendorf after he chose early retirement at IBM and went for outplacement. "I certainly had a misconception they'd do the work, as did most of my colleagues," he says. Instead of job offers, he got a personality profile, aptitude tests, and encouragement to start a business. He now heads an ergonomics consulting firm.
Before outplacement experts can tell dismissed executives how to begin a job search, they often must spend time boosting their wounded egos and diffusing anger. "You can't let someone go on an interview and start bad-mouthing his former place," Stellfox says. Next, aptitude and psychological tests may help uncover what got you on the "expendable" list. So before you start job-hunting, you may be advised to improve your skills or learn to work better with others. You'll get advice on what your resume should say, but you must write it yourself. And you will have to pore over directories in the firm's library to find names and addresses for mailings.
BASICS ONLY. Be ready for letdowns. The promised "personal secretary" is usually someone who just answers a phone. And the rash of layoffs has overworked counselors, giving less time to each job-seeker. "So many guys are using the facilities, you don't get a phone if you come in after 8:30 a.m.," says one firm's client.
Confident you'll find another job easily? Then you might ask your ex-employer to give you extra severance pay instead of paying an outplacement firm's fee--typically 12% to 20% of an exec's annual salary.