One of my good friends is gainfully employed as an accountant at a large company. He’s pulling in a nice salary and enjoying the great things in life. But he’s worried about his future with the company for which he works. He’s probably no different than most people. No job is entirely secure. No job.
We had a moment as we were watching a professional soccer match. The kind of moment that isn’t the most comfortable, but a good reality check. It began when he told me he comes home everyday feeling like he hates his job and fears that most days will be his last.
I asked him if he’s looking for another job, and he gave me a response that’s very typical for people who are paralyzed by the fear of losing a miserable job. No, he hasn’t and doesn’t know where he’d look. Furthermore, he’s afraid that he’ll be unprepared if he has to look for another job. “I don’t even have a résumé,” he admitted.
I was glad that he at least realizes he needs a résumé. Many people don’t think about this until they wake up the morning after when their job no longer exists. Further they don’t realize they should be updating their résumé while they’re still employed, adding accomplishments as they are achieved.
I asked him if he’s touched his LinkedIn profile lately. No to that. No time with the kids’ activities. “Do you want help with your résumé and profile,” I volunteered. He’s not one who likes to reach out for help, a proud guy. No, his wife would whip one together when the time comes.
If we had time to talk more…rather if I wanted to push the issue, I would have laid out a plan for him in terms of looking for a job while working. I would have included 10 ongoing steps I’d recommend to everyone in his situation:
- Resign yourself to the fact that it’s your right to prepare for your next job would be my first bit of advice for him. When you know your company is hurting or you’re unhappy for any reason, it’s fine to look elsewhere. Loyalty is a great attribute to possess and well admired, but being loyal may not be to your benefit, especially if your company cannot sustain itself. Many people try to ride out the inevitable only to find themselves unemployed along with hundreds of other people.
- Don’t use the company’s office equipment, including computer, phone, and fax machine. Conduct all you computer work at home or at a public place. Use your cell phone during lunch, not during office hours, as this is most likely a violation of company policy. Most companies/organizations understand you’ll be looking for work if you’re unhappy, but don’t flaunt it in their face.
- Get that résumé in order. Let me reiterate the importance of having an updated résumé that includes, most importantly, quantified accomplishments with numbers, dollars and percentages. How have you increased revenue or productivity? Have you decreased cost or time? Improved processes that increased productivity? Scrambling to write a resume, as my friend intimated, will only put more pressure on him…and his spouse who’s writing it.
- Compile an accomplishment sheet that includes 10-15 accomplishments. I put this challenge to my workshop attendees because this can be a great networking tool, as well as nice to have by your side during a telephone interview. In addition, it gets you to think about the value you bring to employers. Take the accomplishments already on your résumé and try to add more, even if they’re from your volunteerism.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Many people are starting to realize that LinkedIn plays a major role in hiring authorities vetting talent. For them it doesn’t involve reading a huge pile of résumés and interviewing many strange people, thus enabling the Hidden Job Market (HJM). Rather they visit people’s profiles to see if the skills and experience they’re seeking are on them. If so, a nice conversation or two may ensue, leading to a real interview…for the formal process.
- Speaking of the HJM…get out of the office and do some networking. My friend works where he can get away for an “hour” lunch, which is a great opportunity for him to meet up with some targeted networking partners. Locate people through LinkedIn or referrals from a group of trusted people, and call them for lunch or discrete meetups. “Honey, I’ll be home late” may be a necessity in this situation.
- Don’t confine your networking to people who are in your industry; let other people know you’re unhappy at your current company and that you would consider new opportunities. My friend volunteered that he’s unhappy, which set my job-search advice wheels into motion. Now I’m thinking of ways to assist him in his job search, perhaps by writing his résumé. Sometimes it’s the superficial connections who come through with leads when you least expect it.
- Think beyond your comfort zone. I asked my friend if he would consider companies smaller than the one at which he currently works. He was slow to answer, which makes me think he’ll need some persuasion. While larger companies are appealing–offer higher salaries–smaller companies combined hire more people per capita. Plus there’s more competition from a slew of people who are applying to the blue-chip companies.
- Start cutting back on the luxuries. If you see the writing on the wall and know your days are numbered, make plans to spend less money. Perhaps start paying off bills so they won’t be hanging over your head should you lose your job.
- Have an earnest discussion with your boss. If you trust your direct supervisor, ask for a moment of his/her time and discus your concern about the future of your position. Perhaps your concerns are unwarranted, or as my wife would accurately tell me at times, I was being paranoid.
This was an uncomfortable conversation between my friend and I, and it’s a difficult topic to write about. Nonetheless, it is a reality that anyone’s job is not 100% secure. It’s important, therefor, to take measures to prepare for the possibility of losing your job. Perhaps my friend, who’s been at his company for 30 years has nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, as the cliché goes.
Great article Bob. Well said. I am also an advocate for keeping yourself marketing within your current organization as well as outside while you are employed. Thank you for sharing this valuable informations
Thank you, Trish. All of us should market ourselves while working. Organizations, good organizations, realize this and should not be afraid to let people move on, as it’s a nature of life.
All of this is excellent advice–starting with #1, about loyalty. In my younger, innocent years I considered even having an updated resume to be ipso facto an act of disloyalty. No longer. If you’re fortunate enough to be working for a company where the Founder who started it at his kitchen table decades earlier is still the CEO (there are still a few of those left, but not too many anymore), loyalty is deserved and there’s a good chance it will be reciprocated. Over the years this kind of loyalty may very well mean canceling vacation plans at the last minute, working over holiday weekends, missing important family celebrations, and so forth. Sacrifices that loyal employees who know they are appreciated make willingly.
However, the minute the Founder cashes out to enjoy a well-deserved retirement or to pursue new challenges, and turns over control to an outsider–usually an MBA who has no personal stake in the organization except as the vehicle for his personal enrichment, and certainly none at all to the employees who made it great and profitable in the first place–and a luscious target for a “reorganization” and a takeover, merger, or liquidation…that’s a good time to put on your life preserver and assemble on the boat deck, ready to abandon ship. It’s better to jump, fully prepared, than to be pushed.
Whereas the Founder saw the people as his team, or his flock, to be tended and valued, the new one sees just lamb chops–and he’s got the chopping block and a knife ready to go from the moment he first darkens your door–regardless of his initial assurances to the contrary. I’ve seen this over and over, and have been on the receiving end of the chopping myself.
Excellent, even stellar, job performance is no protection at all when the bloodletting starts, because the new MBA doesn’t care about that; all he cares about is the $50 million or $100 million bonus he expects to get, as quickly as possible, when he cuts not just the fat, but the meat and muscle, down to the bone, strips off the hide and sends it to a tannery, outsources as much of the remaining work as possible, and sells off what’s left–which by then may be not much more than a brand or a name, plus an Administrative Assistant sitting in a small, windowless room with a telephone, a keyboard, and a monitor on a table in front of her–to some other corporation or holding company that’s looking for acquisitions. The one thing the new CEO will never cut, of course is his own salary and severance package.
I’m a committed capitalist, and a strong believer that the primary purpose of any business is to make money, not to lose it by keeping a lot of deadwood on the payroll. But the coldblooded script I’ve describes above has become the brutal new reality, as tens of millions of productive, highly qualified, now-unemployed (and “unemployable”) professionals–especially middle-aged ones–have discovered to their woe. So, be forewarned, and prepare! This article is a good toolbox for that.
Excellent example of how a company can crumble when taken over by another company. I suffered this–well, actually it was a blessing in disguise–scenario when I was in marketing. The new owner had us gather together and told us no one would be let go, and he gave us sweatshirts for the acquiring company. The next weekend, many of us were laid off. Great comment!
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