It can come as a shock. One day an employee or executive has a secure job. The next day they're told to clear their desk and leave.
Good employers offer outplacement - now sometimes called "workforce transition". Outplacement is services offered by a downsizing employer to help former employees through the transition to new jobs.
Outplacement is changing. The classic approach, which involved counselling, practical assistance with CV development and career management, isn't enough in the new economy, says Jennie Vickers, who runs the ZeopardThink Out-and-Up-Placement service. Job seeking has changed.
Redundant employees still need all of the basic services offered by outplacement. Anyone who has been out of the job search game for five, 10 or even 20 years is going to find that they need new skills to survive in the 21st century job market. The world has changed.
Outplacement services are being forced to reposition their offering. Many now offer online tools, but the real change is an emphasis on mastering social media and online presence.
Michelle Mearns, of the Career Engagement Group, says one of the biggest changes in the past five years is the need for redundant staff to harness LinkedIn and other social media. Not doing so can be the kiss of death for a job search.
Vickers, whose own LinkedIn profile is in one of the most viewed in the world, says senior staff in particular don't pay enough attention to their online presence.
Carl Rogers, one of Vickers' clients, resigned this year after 20 years in the same multinational company, where he rose to the position of managing director. Rogers says he had spent 20 years building the business and hadn't focused on his own career plans.
"I didn't even have a LinkedIn profile," he says, but that changed rapidly.
Another client, Mike Johnston, a former Canon chief executive in New Zealand, found new employment at management consultancy Co7.com via LinkedIn. He now believes senior employees should be spending 30 minutes a day working on online networking and staying connected even if they're not in the market for a job.
When Johnston left Canon he had virtually no social media presence. Vickers worked with him to create an effective LinkedIn profile that was "CV worthy" in Johnston's words. She also encouraged him to try Twitter.
In Johnston's case, LinkedIn helped him to raise his profile and also resulted in a number of job offers, which he declined. The first contact for his current role at management consultancy Co7.com came via LinkedIn.
Recruiters, employers, and executive searchers are turning to social media as the first port of call for checking out potential employees and executive staff.
"If your profile, your expertise and your brand value are not out there on the corner, the dream job recruiter is not going to find you even if you are the perfect fit," says Vickers.
Mearns expects LinkedIn profiles to replace the need for a CV in time. But there is more to the online side of a job search than simply LinkedIn. She recommends clients make sure that their broader online presence is up-to-date on Seek and other job seeker websites. Although anyone can set up a LinkedIn profile, few know how to use it effectively, says Vickers.
She encouraged Johnston to create a blog dedicated to conversations around his leadership expertise, and to link from his profile to video interviews, SlideShare presentations, and published articles, which all help to build a candidate's profile as an authority in his or her field.
LinkedIn is a good place to use as a repository to gather material of benefit to a job search, says Vickers.
Modern outplacement takes work. Mearns says clients spend at least 30 hours a week on their job search. Around two-thirds of that time should be spent online.
"Some of our clients are being very creative with their job search strategies [which] quite frequently yield jobs for them," she says.
Mearns and Vickers encourage their outplacement clients to join special interest groups on LinkedIn and other social media sites to keep up to date with the latest trends in their industries and to become known as an expert in their field. That can be as simple as posting links to relevant articles on the groups or re-tweeting information of interest to their industry group.
The social media side of finding a new job had such an effect on Johnston that he is recruiting 80 staff through the social media website.
"Using LinkedIn started out as a curiosity. The effectiveness of LinkedIn was an eye-opener."