Earlier today, I responded to someone on Reddit who recently lost their job after 25 years in the steel mill trade.
Feel free to ask questions or offer your own advice in the comments below. Let's all help one another find more meaningful work!
Firstly, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your job. Twenty-five years of employment shows you were a key contributor to your organization for those years. The changing needs of consumers, industry, and the global economy have reshuffled the deck in terms of your skillset, so we need to start with a blank canvas.
The below advice could be used to help anyone that is considering a career change or dealing with job loss due to layoff.
Based on my experience (12 years as a recruiter, speaking to countless hiring managers), I recommend the following approach. This article is a long one, and no doubt I missed some things, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety:
Identify the critical skills you developed over the years:
A steel mill strikes me as a highly compliant environment, meaning strict procedures need to be followed else injury or death is a possible result;
Additionally, you were lead foreman, so you are in fact, a manager. Management skills are highly transferrable, though it may require some adjustment depending on where you land;
You are likely paid more according to the relative danger of the steel mill environment, so if you move to a more safe/stable workplace expect to see a reduction in compensation;
ACTION PLAN: Write a list of soft and hard skills you have developed in the last 25 years from strongest to least strongest. You will use this list of skills in the next bullet point. This exercise is going to be TOUGH. Taking inventory of yourself is not easy for anyone, but consider deeply what you did day-to-day and what skills were required (e.g. problem-solving repairs of machinery, drafting and improving compliance standards for machinery safety, managing deadlines for mill output by ensuring raw materials are available for processing, mediating disputes between subordinates on the shop floor, crisis management related to critical machine failure or significant injury of personnel, etc.)
Finding another job in steel manufacturing likely requires relocation. If staying put is what you prefer, then you will need to think laterally about where to go next. I recommend using a job site aggregator like indeed.com to find work that uses your experience;
Indeed compiles a significant number of job postings from the internet, so think of it as google for job descriptions. In other words, you can use the skills from the first bullet point, type them into the search field on the left, and write your town or zip code in the field on the right. This search will bring up a list of jobs, in your area, that require the same skills you have;
Same as above, you are going to make a list of jobs that utilize your skill set, starting with the closest match through the furthest match;
ACTION PLAN: Now you have a list of jobs that match your skills, start with the top five jobs that are closest to your skillset then search for them in your area.
SECONDARY PLAN: Create a list of the skills you do not currently have that are required for these jobs. We will use this list later.
You next need to consider how people apply for the jobs you are interested in. After spending enough time on indeed.com you will notice that recruiters post many of these jobs
Recruiters charge fees and their clients pay them fees because recruiters find candidates the client can't find themselves. When a candidate is considering a career change, the recruiter will not likely make your profile fit their client's requirements. My advice is to meet or speak with recruiters and get their advice on the local market, and ask them how best to follow-up;
Job postings are a good way to avoid charging the client a recruiter fee, but this approach is not significantly better. In-house recruiters use software called Applicant Tracking Systems ("ATS") that tell them quickly if the words in your resume match with those words used in the job description. If you're changing careers, it is doubtful your resume will flag you as a strong match relative to other candidates that are already performing a similar job function. This is the likely explanation for your original comment, that you are getting "very few bites";
LinkedIn and social media are slightly better than the first two cases in that for a fee they allow you to write the hiring person directly. If memory serves, LinkedIn requires a response from potential employers to their applicants so they are incentivized to give you feedback - good or less;
Trade shows or industry events. I recommend this highly because by showing up in person, you have a chance to present the image you want to present. This also gives you a chance to have real conversations, manager to manager, with potential employers. This also allows you to negotiate directly for a role with their company that leverages your strengths and sets a timeline for you to catch up on the other skills the employer needs.
ACTION PLAN: You might think that one of the above approaches is better than the other, but in reality, you must try all of the approaches (and more) above and measure your results, acquire feedback, and apply that feedback to get better results. In other words, you must use your unsuccessful job applications to improve your future applications.
ACTION PLAN: Taking everything above into account, you should understand that applying to a job and executing a career change are not finite exercises. It is a continuous cycle of applying, getting feedback, updating your materials to improve your chances, then applying all over again. Here are some areas to gradually improve on:
Your resume: This is a marketing document you use to convey your experience and capabilities. If you follow my earlier advice, you will see there is a natural progression of updating your resume, applying for jobs, taking advice from unsuccessful applications, and updating your resume again;
Your social media profile: Your LinkedIn profile is an abridged version of your resume that potential employers will check out after seeing a profile they are interested in. I recommend asking your former colleagues at the steel mill for recommendations. As you make substantial changes to your resume, adapt those changes to your LinkedIn profile. As for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram I highly recommend cleaning these up. Now is not the time to take a political position or post a photo of something others may consider risque. Stay true to your values and beliefs, but I recommend holding off on sharing them too much while applying for jobs. As silly as it sounds but take a selfie of yourself rewriting your resume or tweet about getting on the road to apply for jobs. Social media is something we rely on for social interaction - but changing it up to suit your current life goals is well worth considering;
Remember that list of skills that you do not yet have from above? Now is the time to look for online training or resources to help you learn those skills. Ask yourself this simple question: If I'm still looking for a job six months from now, how is my application strong in six months than it is today? If you don't ask these questions, employers will
In closing, finding a job is a full-time job. But it's also a great opportunity to explore talents you didn't know you had and potentially find a life-changing role that is meaningful and rewards your hard work. Also, remember to change things up by reading a book that interests you, taking a walk in the park weekly to connect what you learned in your job search, and take a deep breath.
Lastly, losing your job due to layoffs is not a reflection of you it's the result of a changing global economy. While unemployment in the United States is 3.6% as of this writing, research shows that underemployment*, or not having enough paid work or not doing work that makes full use of your skills and abilities, is actually at 7.7%, (ranging from 4.7% in North Dakota to 12.0% in Alaska). Learning how to adjust to a shifting job market is a skill all of us need to develop.