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Career Counseling through Crisis: How to Handle Layoffs and Furloughs Due to COVID-19

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article summarizes the content presented in the April 10, 2020, LPM webinar “Handling Layoffs and Furloughs Due to COVID-19 while Adjusting and Preparing for the New Normal in Retail.” Click here to watch the recorded webinar. Or click here to listen to the podcast.

It’s amazing just how quickly the world can change. Confronted with the uncertainty of a world-wide pandemic, we’ve entered unchartered territory both as a nation and as a global community as we search for answers to new and demanding questions. Difficult decisions are being made, and challenging outcomes are sure to follow.

As all of us are very well aware, the wave of turmoil caused by the COVID-19 menace will have both immediate and long-lasting consequences. Times like these both create challenges and expose weaknesses in many different ways, whether business, personal, professional, social, economic, or in a host of other ways based on our particular circumstances. But by the same respect, it can highlight character and drive invention. Through the loss and anxiety and ambiguity that marks the crisis, we can also discover the best parts of who we are.

- Digital Partner -

Just like so many aspects of our everyday lives, retail is headed towards a new normal. Currently there are businesses facing layoffs, furloughs, and downsizing at a record pace, while others are expanding, have employees that are overworked, and cannot hire fast enough. Through it all, we’re left with one certainty—everything around us has changed and will continue to change at a rapid pace. It will alter the way that we look at our stores and how they operate. It will impact the culture of our organizations and the focus of the business. Ultimately, it’s likely to influence the way we live our lives and approach our responsibilities. This leaves all of us facing critical questions regarding our positions, our careers, and our personal lives as we attempt to navigate through both what’s happening today, and what comes next.

Change has always been a critical part of growth, and there have always been accelerators that influence the pace of change. This is one of those times. What will make the difference is how we respond.

Start with a Plan

Whatever the future holds, it’s important that we have a plan; and a good place to start is by getting advice from those with the knowledge and expertise to help point us in the right direction. With more than 85 years of career coaching, mentoring, recruiting and placement, LP Magazine has reunited the premier and well-known panel of loss prevention career counselors to bring you professional advice and expert guidance to help navigate through these difficult times.

Gene Smith
Gene Smith

Gene Smith, LPC is currently an advisor for Prior to his retirement, he held president positions with the Loss Prevention Foundation and with the nation’s largest executive search firm that specialized in loss prevention and asset protection. A member of the NRF’s Ring of Excellence, Smith is a former loss prevention executive who has provided career counseling for more than 30 years.


LP Solutions
Jacque Brittain
Jacque Brittain

Jacque Brittain, LPC is currently editorial director for LP Magazine. He also serves as director of learning design for LPM Media Group and director of learning design and certification for the Loss Prevention Foundation. He is the former vice president of operations with the nation’s largest executive search firm that specialized in loss prevention and asset protection. He is a former loss prevention professional and has provided career counseling for more than 25 years.


Chris O’Leary
Chris O’Leary

Chris O’Leary is the founder of Loss Prevention Recruiters, LLC, a trusted partner for talent acquisition in retail loss prevention, asset protection, security, business continuity, and safety. He is the former vice president of account services with the nation’s largest executive search firm that specialized in loss prevention and asset protection and has provided career counseling and advice for the retail loss prevention industry for more than 30 years.

As LP Magazine’s Kevin McMenimen moderated the webinar presentation, our expert panel helped answer questions and provide guidance on important considerations and actions that can be taken to protect yourself and your family. They also recommended additional opportunities you may want to take advantage of as well.

Click here to watch the complete webinar, “Handling Layoffs and Furloughs Due to COVID-19 while Adjusting and Preparing for the New Normal in Retail.”

- Digital Partner -

So Now What?

So, you’ve been furloughed or displaced—now what? First of all, don’t panic. There are many across the country and across the world that are facing similar questions. Don’t wait. Find the resources available to you and get to it. Click here to download a PDF of professional development and career-related resources.

Currently, the extreme circumstances that we are facing has led to some new programs to help support you during these difficult times. There are unemployment benefits plus federal subsidies to provide financial support. There are stimulus dollars and additional programs intended to help get us through the most difficult times. Of course, it’s important to conserve your financial resources where possible and manage your money. This may include partnering with credit card companies and mortgage lenders to defer payments or stop “recurring” charges. It may involve cutting back on memberships, subscriptions, or other services. Be smart and manage wisely.

It’s also important to prepare now for your next step. Do you expect to return to work where you were before, or will you be looking at new opportunities? Whatever the answer may be, it’s important to put yourself in the best position to get back to work as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Consider the Bright Spots

Even in times of chaos and great change, there are always bright spots that help see us through. While some have been furloughed or displaced during the pandemic, other opportunities have come to the forefront as we adjust to life in light of COVID-19. Areas such as grocery, pharmacy, supply chain, online growth and opportunities, and other critical need areas may present new and different options as we move forward.

Look for and consider all the options—and be flexible. Stay positive, and open your mind to new and different opportunities. Having a job is better than not having a job, and you may discover a new opportunity or passion that you may not have previously considered. Above all else, take care of yourself and your family. Keep your priorities in mind, stay grounded, and stay positive.

Crisis and Wellness

While our current situation is unique, there are important and consistent steps that all of us should take when managing ourselves and our families through career challenges. Outside of those that live in a bubble, every decision that’s made during these times will have a direct and immediate impact on the entire family unit. As we respond through career setbacks, disruptions or displacement, we will experience various phases of reaction, reflection, emotional outcomes, and acceptance. While every situation is different, every member of the family unit has a role and must be part of the plan.

As part of the process, it’s important to develop your own personal and professional plan for your unique situation. However, it’s just as imperative that you don’t wait. With so many facing career-altering decisions, the emphasis should be to create a realistic and practical plan that helps minimize the impact.

Develop a personal and professional plan for your situation. Focus on what can you do to protect your family now, but consider factors beyond the obvious and immediate. Every need should be considered whether those needs include emotional, physical, or financial support.

Improve Yourself to Broaden Your Opportunities

While displacement can be a time of difficulty and anxiety, it’s essential that we also look at it as a time of opportunity and self-reflection. Often, it’s how we look at things that can make a difference. For example, rather than simply considering how we can do things better, it may be more advantageous to think about how we can do things differently, and then evaluate whether that path is the best one to follow.

For most of us, we don’t necessarily climb the ladder of success—it’s more like climbing a flight of stairs. It might lead us to the same destination, but the climb is more gradual, more stable, and more deliberate. It may take us a little longer to get there, but we’re more grounded and more confident in each step that we take. This is a time to take the steps. Make solid decisions, and move forward at your own pace.

So, what are you doing right now? It’s not a time to “wait and see”, but rather a time to seize the moment. A few important steps that can be take would include:

Networking. Get involved! Use the time to build new contacts and reinvest in your current pool of contacts. This can provide a source of necessary support while having the potential to open new doors of growth and opportunity.

Capitalize on available resources. Don’t simply fall back on what’s been used in the past. Look for new and creative ways to stay active and engaged. That would include both physical and intellectual exercise. Stay healthy!

Invest in yourself through continuing education. It may sound cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true—the best investment we can make is the one that we make in ourselves. Open your mind to continuing education opportunities, including the various industry certification programs. Right now, there are a number of opportunities to offset the cost of these programs to include numerous scholarship opportunities offered through our valued solution providers. Stop making excuses and apply yourself!

Stay informed. Use social media platforms and news outlets such as LP Magazine to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Information is power. Use it wisely.

Build a viable resume. While guidance may vary, there are some fundamental rules that remain constant in the resume-building process. First and foremost, construct a resume that represents who you are. Show the building blocks of your career rather than regurgitating job descriptions. Highlight your skills and abilities. Emphasize key words and skill sets. Tell the truth.

Prepare for the interview process. It’s a common mistake not to be fully prepared for the interview process. Effectively communicating who you are, how you will perform, and what your capabilities are takes practice and skill. You must convey energy and enthusiasm. You must be confident without being cocky. You have to show an eagerness to learn and grow. You must be humble and sincere.

Preparing for What Comes Next

Based on the sweeping range of this pandemic and the steps that we’ve had to take to slow the spread of the virus, we can say with some certainty that the world has changed and will never be the same. Retail will change as well. The shuttering of businesses will leave an indelible mark on retail profits. Recovery will be slow and deliberate to avoid more difficulties or a resurgence of the virus. Companies that manage the process correctly will have the greatest opportunity for meaningful recovery.

This is likely to create a new dynamic in the business, and a new culture in the stores. Some things that were previously taken for granted will be brought into greater focus. Some roles will be slightly amplified, while others will significantly change. Some will take on a different meaning. Roles and responsibilities may be combined. Others may fall to the side as we adjust to the new normal. Retail will adapt, and we will have to adapt and evolve as well.

Whatever the means, retail is a business driven by profit. The objective is to increase sales, control expenses, and minimize losses. The formula may sound simple, but the billion-dollar question is finding the right balance to maximize the outcome.

So, what steps can be taken to prepare for the new future? What can be done to help maintain our current positions, or secure a new job if our position has been eliminated?

Seeing what you do in a different way. Closed minds close doors. Loss prevention management is an essential component of the retail model and will always survive in some form. Mistakes will be made, controls will be missed, and people will steal. However, methods of addressing shrink and risk control may change. There is no one way to address retail losses, and in fact there never has been. We have to open our minds to the possibilities and adjust what we do accordingly.

Showing humility. How can you improve? Do you consider yourself to be a finished product? Do you think you’ve learned everything that you need to learn to be a successful professional? Do you think the other person is always the one that has something to learn? If so, you’d better take another look. When you take a closer look in the mirror, it may not be the reflection you thought it would be. Stay relevant by evolving with the times. Invest in a plan, and continue to modify that plan throughout your professional career.

Being a better partner. Across the industry, every one of us is a retail professional that happens to specialize in loss prevention/asset protection, and it’s important to act like it. Being an effective partner means learning and understanding as well as sharing information. Taking a real interest in the business will make you better and more valuable to the business as a whole.

Flexibility. The best and most successful leaders in the business have always been those that are willing to be flexible and learn new things. This might include stepping outside of the traditional role of loss prevention to better learn an understand a different role and gain additional perspective. It may mean approaching a task or responsibility in a different way. It may mean taking on a new role altogether to best serve both your personal and professional needs. Keep an open mind and discover a new and better approach to what you do.

Thinking outside the box. Don’t shy away from creativity. Rather than waiting for the world to change, put your mind towards leading the way. There are a million solutions out there just waiting for someone to find them.

You can’t lead with your ego. Lead through your talents and abilities. This is a common mistake that will do nothing more than get in your way. Whether it’s the approach to a job interview, an interaction with a business partner, a discussion with a peer or subordinate, a meeting with a supervisor, filling out a questionnaire—or even the approach to a task or responsibility, it’s always best to think, act, speak, and listen with style, poise, and humility.

Change can be a difficult and scary path to follow, but it’s also the only way that we can learn and grow. Regardless of the outcome, the world will adjust, and each one of us will adjust with it. Rather than seeing an end, we should set our sights on a new beginning. Stay strong, stay positive, and stay safe. This too will pass.

Click here to download a PDF of professional development and career-related resources.

Click here to watch the complete webinar, “Handling Layoffs and Furloughs Due to COVID-19 while Adjusting and Preparing for the New Normal in Retail.”

Click here to listen to the podcast.

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