3 Ways Displaced Employees can Maximize Group Career Counseling

Rafael, 37, was a laid off IT Network Manager for a small company. Like many of his colleagues, he was entitled to outplacement services and group career counseling.

But he was bitter, confused and panicky. Understandably so, considering the bad news he received. 

On the day of the counseling session, Rafael felt the unwelcome change in his morning routine. He was supposed to be getting ready for work. Instead, he’s on his way to a ‘woo-woo’ AA type therapy meeting.

After introducing himself, he hardly talked to anyone. He could hear the people around him, sobbing, angry, and confused, while sharing their feelings about the layoff. But his brain wasn’t processing any of it. So while some of his group mates felt a tad better afterwards—some even with a renewed hope for the future—he felt the same as he did before the class.



Did the counselor say he would help him get a job? Was he supposed to give tips for job interviews?

You might’ve experienced something similar to Rafael when you got laid off. Either your mind was wandering, or you had different expectations. Bottom line, you were disappointed. Worse, you weren’t able to get the most value out of the counseling and outplacement services you got.

How can you prevent this from happening? How can participants get the most value out of group career counseling sessions, and use this to springboard their re-entry into the candidate pool?

The Right Mindset for Counseling

This isn’t a Drive Thru!

Trust the system. Group counseling exists because it works, so don’t dismiss it just because it seems cheesy on the surface.

When you go to a drive thru for food, you’re in recipient mode. You order, pay and then get your meal. But when you’re in a counseling session, especially in a group counseling session, you’re expected to participate. The counselor can’t do all the work!

Yes, a facilitator is talking in front but without the group’s input there’s no discussion. The participants and counselor won’t force you to share things you’re not comfortable with. Whether you’re scared to look for a new job, want to go around the world or retire but financially can’t, no one is going to judge you.

Don’t Hog the Spotlight!

Group sessions have anywhere from 7 to 15 participants, sometimes more. Between you and the other attendees, there’s not just enough time for long discussions.

You deserve the counselor and group’s attention but so do the other attendees. In this case, apply the traffic light rule when answering a question or sharing something about yourself.

  • First 30 seconds - Green light. You have everyone’s complete attention.
  • 31-59 seconds - Yellow light. People are starting to wonder whether you have a point.
  • 60 seconds and up - Red light. Time’s up, either ask a question, make a point or pass the baton to someone else.

What do You Want Out of This?

Let’s get one thing straight, a career counselor can’t get you a job. In general, counselors help assess your goals, rebuild your confidence.

Before you step into that class, have a specific objective. Do you want to vent? Or maybe you’re not confident about sending job applications after all this time so you want to brush up your interview skills.

Having a specific end in mind will influence how you participate in the sessions. Besides, if you just show up without any concrete goals, how will you gauge if the counseling works or not?

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