Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011
Today's careers? More like rollercoasters… Maybe scary, but fun!
An interview by Alessandra Zocca
Mr. Wim Claessen- Senior Consultant at DBM Brussels Office
PWI – How is the current labour market evolving?
Mr. Claasen – According to recent career change statistics (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) the average person will be making a career change approximately 5-7 times during their working life. For example, Americans average 3-5 career/employer changes by the age of 38. For the youngster, the forecast is to change employer even 10 times, meaning approximately every 3 years!
This is quite different from the past, just think that one third of people retiring now had only one employer in their whole working life…
Career change might be a voluntary decision, but in these past few years we have witnessed in the market a number of companies opting for collective dismissals; as a result of which, we need to seriously consider the trend that outplacement will become part of a career.
When I joined DBM around ten years ago, most people interpreted the word “outplacement” as a sort of outsourcing. Now if you ask people, at least 8 out 10 of them confirm they have heard of it and some have already gone through an outplacement experience.
PWI – Wim, could you provide a definition of outplacement and highlight the difference from coaching?
Mr. Claasen – Coaching is more about providing people with the tools and the means to find answers themselves to the problems they face - it is about facilitating and making sure they find their own answers. Of course, there is an element of coaching in outplacement, but the latter is more directive. In other words, in an outplacement situation you give direction, you help people by telling them what to do in their situation.
Let me take as an example my personal experience when I lost my job ten years ago: it was the first time in my twentyyear career that I had to look for a job, I really did not know what to do. I had not written a CV for myself for years.
PWI – Based on your seasoned experience, what are the key suggestions you would give to people who have lost their job?
Mr. Claasen – There is not a unique recipe, but for sure my three strong recommendations are: be positive, stay focused and be visible.
Fired employees are emotionally hurt, they become defensive and negative, they think they are too old/too young and so on, they struggle to revert to a positive mindset, which is extremely important. The main issue here is that today employees feel they are fired or made redundant without a valid reason …
Staying focused means defining the search scope: either you want to stay in the same type of job or you want a career shift; it means creating your own plan and following it, not going all over the place from one direction to another. Being visible is essential and includes developing your own network, travelling, getting introduced to people, not hiding yourself behind your pc…
PWI – Can you confirm that – if well managed – being fired can turn into a golden opportunity? How?
Mr. Claasen – At the beginning of the outplacement program, most people think they would search for the same type of job, which is not always based on the fact that they enjoyed it. In this case – if affordable financially and psychologically - it is important to step back, to take some distance and understand which direction they really want to take, to assess how they have changed along the career path. It is the opportunity to invest in themselves and look for the job they really want.
PWI – In the ten years you have been doing consultations for people on outplacement programs, have you noticed any significant differences in behavior between women and men? How do they react to the shock of having been made redundant?
Mr. Claasen – Generally speaking women cope better with job redundancy than men, they switch more quickly and move on even if they still have to prove more, to perform more than men in the market.
Men’s egos are extremely hurt and they tend to blame everybody else, they feel they have been pushed off the pedestal.
PWI – Coming back to the evolution of the labour market, let’s assume that the forecast for changing career/employer every 3 to 5 years turns out to be correct. Don’t you think, Wim, that people, after a couple of changes/dismissals, will know perfectly well what to do and will not need guidance?
Mr. Claasen – You are right, but don’t forget that, when they are in a job, a lot of people neglect these kind of activities such as nurturing their network, updating their CV, looking at job advertisements; they get confronted with it only afterwards, when they are losing or have lost their job.
Therefore the real value of outplacement in the current climate – and more in the coming years – will be to help employees, who have lost their job, to find their way in the labour market, which has become a sort of “jungle”. Outplacement will probably consist of responding to the following needs: how can I contact companies, how can I get in, how can I evolve my network around those types of companies?
PWI – I guess that gaining knowledge of the different labour markets will be even more critical particularly for expatriates.
Mr. Claasen – Exactly, you are an expatriate, you work from seven in the morning to eight in the evening, how do you build your network, what do you know about all those different companies in a foreign market, you simply don’t.
Honestly, Alessandra, what is the labour market nowadays? In the past, the market for somebody living in Brussels was Brussels, then the market became Belgium and then Benelux and then Europe! And what is the labour market today? China, Brazil, all kind of places… Imagine you are interested in India, how do you enter that market?
PWI – Do you mean that the core value of outplacement companies lies with their international network and database? According to you, which are the main competencies of a valuable outplacement consultant?
Mr. Claasen – – My personal opinion is that there are a number of outplacement consultants, who are possibly less involved in the actual market, but they are extremely good for instance in the assessment part, in writing CVs. However how do you get into action mode, in other words into the search, where do you get info, contacts?
Here is how the outplacement program should bring value, providing information and personalised contacts which people normally cannot find, even in LinkedIn.
There are other outplacement consultants that come from a business background, that know the market and have the contacts.
Ideally, outplacement companies need all these mentioned capabilities, a solid international/national network and to stay abreast of the latest developments in the market. Global outplacement companies are able to provide support in international career transitions because they have experts in various countries.
PWI – What are the main triggers of outplacement, the evolution or the practice?
Mr. Claasen – If loyalty to firms is diminishing (according to statistics) and if companies have to fire people, but are willing to assist them through outplacement to find another opportunity, hopefully these employees will still talk positively about their former employer and the image of the company will remain positive. As you know a company’s image is very important in attracting and retaining talent.
The outplacement sector is growing and will probably end up being composed of a number of big players with very professional people on board and an extended international network. There will also be local players, who are professionals in their local domain.
|Mr. Wim CLAASEN is a Senior Consultant at DBM Brussels Office. Wim is a certified coach in I-LeadTM ( ), which allows him to carry out coaching assignments for Executives and Managers. In parallel he is a visiting lecturer in a business school in Belgium.
Wim has 19 years of experience in various Sales & Marketing functions within Philip Morris International, covering Management positions across various countries in Europe and North Africa.
Wim was born in the Netherlands and has being living in Belgium since 1991.
Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of DBM, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011