Expert job search advice.

What should I do if my company offers me outplacement services?

Are outplacements beneficial and how to take control of your job search

What is Outplacement?

Outplacement refers to the process and services provided by companies to assist employees who are transitioning out of the organization. This may be due to layoffs, redundancies, or corporate restructuring. These outplacement services should support individuals in their career transition by offering practical guidance and resources. Typically, outplacement services include career counseling, resume writing, job search assistance, interview coaching, networking guidance, and access to job databases.

Why Do Some Companies Provide Outplacement?

The #1 reason that companies provide outplacement is that they don’t want to get sued by you. There are more noble reasons that a company might provide job search assistance, such as a desire to maintain a positive reputation in the job market, employee retention, and last but certainly not least– they care about your well-being and want to help you have a smooth landing.

If the company has sent over a separation agreement document — which lays out the conditions of the layoff — pay close attention to the deadline you have to accept. Many companies will want you to sign on the spot (relinquishing your ability to file a lawsuit), but I recommend sharing your agreement with your lawyer (if you are able). Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), any terminated employee over 40 years of age who is offered a severance agreement must be given at least 21 days to review that offer.

Are Employers Required To Offer Outplacement Services?

Employers are not legally required to offer you third-party outplacement services. Even though it’s the right thing to do, only about 44% of employers provide job search assistance to their transitioning employees. As brash as this sounds, consider yourself “lucky” if your employer is offering you a package.

And… if you are “lucky,” it’s important to understand that not all services are created equal. Many outplacement services are generic and may not meet your specific needs or goals. While employer-offered outplacement services can seem like a lifeline after a layoff, it’s important to carefully consider whether accepting them is truly beneficial for your career transition.

Executive career coach, Gina Riley shared that many of her clients were set back several months because of the bad advice or the sub-par resume review they received from an outplacement firm.

I have worked with executives who have been set back by six months, working with cookie cutter outplacement. They later realize that the services received weren’t customized to their unique value proposition and job search approach. This leaves the employee angry and bewildered.
Gina Riley, Career Velocity

What is Included in Outplacement?

According to outdated data from The American Management Association and Institute for Corporate Productivity, the average per-employee cost of outplacement services is $2,615 for a salaried employee. While I could not find any data to support this, I suspect that the average company investment has decreased over the past 24 months as the market has been flooded with new virtual and AI-influenced outplacement services.

The company’s investment determines what the third-party can provide. Most outplacement packages include resume writing support and some job search assistance.

It’s not uncommon for a job seeker working with a large firm like Lee Hecht Harrison to get paired with a career transition coach. You may have the opportunity to meet this individual in person, but more than likely, all of your interactions will be done over Zoom. Most people describe the resume writing process with large outplacement providers like LHH as a guided refresh and not a complete rewrite or a branding process. The executive resume writer may spend 2-5 hours working on your document or might give you feedback during your session for you to address on your own. A Reddit job seeker described their experience with LHH as “They did is very, very basic re-write of my resume. That’s all they did in 6 months. They didn’t even bother to look into my cover letter sample.”

Boutique outplacement firms, like The Briefcase Coach, offer white-glove executive resume and career branding writing services. The Briefcase Coach spends 90-minutes conducting a thoughtful intake interview followed by 12-15 hours of writing, editing, and formatting your done-for-you documents.

The best outplacement packages also include ancillary services like LinkedIn profile development & training, assistance preparing for interviews, target company research and job search support groups.

Is Outplacement the Right Fit for You?

If you are offered outplacement services, the first thing you need to do is review your package offering. Most companies will offer a third-party provider to help you transition to a new employer. Conduct your own due diligence on the provider to make sure that you are a mutual fit.

You could consider asking your HR decision-maker for the cash equivalent of outplacement so that you can select your own service provider and find the right fit for you. When YOU are the payer, it’s easier to hold the outplacement company accountable. I’ve found that smaller companies are usually more willing to offer alternative solutions.

Some former executive clients of mine (to get around paying taxes on the cash-out) have talked to their HR department about bringing on a (smaller) boutique outplacement firm like The Briefcase Coach as an option for laid-off employees. A boutique firm can offer more tailored services to employees and make them feel more valued by their former employer amid an emotional time. (Bonus read: Ask the Headhunter Blog–Outplacement or Door #2)

If your company is not flexible in its outplacement offering and you feel “stuck” with the big brand name, here are some steps to leverage resources and take control of your job search:

1. Engage in Networking and Accountability Groups

One valuable aspect of many outplacement services is the inclusion of networking or accountability groups. Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with other professionals facing similar career transitions. Groups provide a supportive environment for sharing job hunt strategies. For example, job search work teams hold each other accountable and expand your professional network.

2. Understand the Scope of Resume Services

Many companies offer laid-off employees resume writing services as opposed to full outplacement benefits. It’s important to manage your expectations regarding the resume services provided. In most cases, the resume service offered is likely a review rather than a comprehensive resume strategy work.

It is important to recognize that the primary goal of a resume review is to ensure a clean, well-structured format. Don’t expect the writer to delve deeply into uncovering your unique value proposition or crafting result-rich statements. For a more comprehensive and tailored resume, consider seeking the assistance of a boutique executive resume writer who will dedicate more time to your individual needs.

3. Explore Former Employees or Alumni Networking Groups

Some outplacement services offer online communities designed for your industry or previous company. These groups can be valuable for finding job leads, exchanging industry insights, and accessing hidden opportunities. Leveraging the collective knowledge and connections of individuals who share a common background can provide unique advantages. If your outplacement provider did not provide you with an online community, consider creating your own. An example of this is the Ex Verizon Opportunity Network with over 4,000 former Verizon employees.

4. Create a Layoff List

Layoff lists contain the names and titles of impacted employees to help connect talent with ready-to-hire recruiters. Layoff lists became very popular during the pandemic as a way for companies to cost-effectively identify and reach out to individuals who may be a great fit for their organization. My favorite websites for layoff lists include and Wiseful.

5. Attend Outplacement Sessions on Essential Topics

Take advantage of the services available to you, including seminars and courses particularly those focused on crucial topics like applying for COBRA, navigating unemployment insurance, and attending budgeting classes. By attending these sessions, you can gain valuable information and resources to help you navigate your season of unemployment. These benefits are not available for an infinite amount of time, so it is important to take advantage of the offering as soon as possible.

“It is so crucial to attend CORBA sessions. They are misunderstood by so many people. If the company continues benefits as part of a severance package, it is important to understand how marketplace enrollment deadlines may conflict with COBRA coverage once company benefits end.”
Lisa Porro, HR Consultant

How Long Does Job Searching Take?

In the immediate aftermath of a job search, I recommend taking some time off to decompress– but not too much time! One of the biggest missteps of newly laid-off job seekers is mismanaging their time after a layoff. I have had many heart-breaking conversations with unemployed job seekers who underestimated how long their job search would take after using their three or four-month severance stipend as a paid vacation.

Time is of the essence in a job search, especially when one has been laid off. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the time unemployed people remain out of work. The reported average unemployment duration in July of 2023 is 20.6 weeks between leaving a job and obtaining a new one. This statistic represents ALL U.S. job seekers at all career levels. Anecdotally, I estimate that the average job search time for executive clients who are committed to daily job search activities is approximately 5.5 months. People in finance, healthcare, and operations tend to take less time than individuals who are working in human resources, technology, and the CPG space (a drastic shift from what we were seeing in 2021/22).

Layoffs Can Be Less Overwhelming With Outplacement Services

Facing a layoff can be an unsettling experience, but outplacement services can provide a valuable lifeline during this transition. While it’s unfortunate if your outplacement package lacks flexibility, there are steps you can take to make the most of the resources available to you. Engage in networking and accountability groups, manage your expectations regarding resume services, tap into former employees or alumni networks, and attend relevant outplacement sessions.

By taking proactive measures and leveraging these opportunities, you can regain control of your job search, maximize your chances of success, and emerge stronger in your professional journey.

Remember, a layoff does not define your worth or potential. Stay positive, persevere, and use every available resource to propel yourself toward new opportunities and a brighter future.

To read advice from a former Briefcase Coach client who persevered through an extended period of unemployment click here.



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