Today’s reality is … there are no longer such things as permanent jobs. The recession has taught us that with rapidly changing markets, global competition, mergers, companies being bought and sold, plant closures and offshoring, even the most tenured employee doesn’t have long term job certainty.
This effects all employees, regardless of seniority, management/staff level, function, company or industry. Some of the world’s most respected companies are dealing with rapid massive market changes that put thousands of jobs at risk … even a company’s very existence. For example, the Fortune 500 list recently replaced The New York Times (est. 1851) and Eastman Kodak (1899) with Netflix (1997) and Cablevision (1973), demonstrating the scope and speed of marketplace change.
How many employees joined these solid companies thinking that if they kept their nose clean and did a good job, they could spend their entire career at NYT or Kodak? Employees who worked for either of these companies 10+ years ago likely didn’t plan on the huge market changes just around the corner that would put many careers at risk.
So how does this effect you?
Let’s say you’re in the most solid job with the most solid company in America. With the increasing rate of business change, your company could be at risk with little notice. What would happen if a game changing company with Groupon-type growth started to compete in your markets? In order to stay competitive, your company may have to make rapid and sometimes extreme change – how will that affect your department or your job?
In the past, you could depend on a decent job market and generous separation benefits – so even if an unexpected layoff happened, you didn’t have much risk to your lifestyle. Today, companies who announce major layoffs often give reduced separation compensation, sending employees into the worst job market of our lifetimes, armed only (if they are lucky) with obsolete job search advice given by outplacement firms.
What if you are laid off tomorrow? Are You Prepared?
We spend so much time and effort teaching our children to be prepared – why do we allow ourselves to be so unprepared for unexpected turns to our careers (and income)?
Being prepared doesn’t just mean having a current resume or knowing some recruiters. Today, being prepared is much more about having an active, diverse, and large network.
Few currently employed workers are prepared for a sudden job loss (other than those already undertaking passive job search). Most current employees are so busy with their jobs, families and outside activities to spend time preparing for an unexpected job search. Outside of entrepreneurs, recruiting or sales (in certain industries), few invest much time in networking – until they have to.
Guess what’s the #1 reason people join Linkedin today? Job loss.
If you wait until a job loss to start looking for a job, you’re way behind the game. By the time most candidates get past the natural depression of job loss, taking a breather or vacation before they start to search, develop a basic resume and contact their network, they’ve burned through 3-4 months. All of a sudden, most realize they aren’t getting many interviews.
There are 3 major ways most candidates are unprepared for their job search:
- Inadequate networks
- Unclear resume that that doesn’t make the candidate stand out
- Poor (or no) job search planning
I’ve written much about resume improvement and job search planning, so let’s focus on inadequate networks.
Few candidates realize their networks are inadequate until about 3-4 months into their search, after they’ve contacted their network, developed a resume, and either gotten through post job loss depression or vacation. Since few candidates keep in close contact with their networks and even fewer expand their networks until they have to look for a job, most job seekers are starting from scratch 3-4 months into their search … because they’re not prepared.
Next, these candidates try to stumble through figuring out how to network … since most are out of practice. Candidates who aren’t used to networking deal with discomfort (and fear), learning how to ask for help in a way increases a response and help, and discovering the difference between a productive vs. and unproductive contact.
The few natural networkers will start to see results and increasing interviews within another 1-2 months (4-5 months after layoff). Many will flounder in building their networks, because they are out of practice, never learned effective networking, or network randomly (rather than networking to reach specific targeted people and companies).
Does it take everyone this long? These are averages – a few candidates get lucky early in their search. Most take over seven months or more to find their next job.
Going into their job search, almost no one thinks their job search will take this long – most candidates I speak with or hear from have unrealistic expectations about how prepared they are to search and almost everyone is unrealistic about how tough the job market is. Is it any wonder that CareerBuilder reports that the average job seeker takes over 30 weeks to find their next job?
How can you prepare for an unexpected job loss now?
Hopefully you won’t have to use this preparation anytime soon – Most are more likely to lose their job unexpectedly than loose their life. Just like most employees carry life insurance, think of job search preparation as career insurance.
Here are 6 basic ways to keep yourself prepared for unexpected job loss:
- Update your resume annually: whether you feel you need it or not
- Create a target list of companies:List which companies you’d like to work for if you left your current job
- Create a target list of contacts: List industry hubs and managers/employees to meet within your target companies
- Expand your Linkedin network: Expand your online network by 25-50 people per month (in addition to people you’ve met at events). Focus on your target industry, target companies, target contacts, hiring managers and geography.
- Attend events: Attend at least one networking event every quarter, in addition to any conferences and trade shows you attend for work
- Keep in contact: Keep in contact with your network twice per year, without spamming – this is more challenging now that Christmas cards are a less popular and less effective way to stay in touch with your network.
Notice that I didn’t mention recruiters? Keeping in contact with recruiters won’t really help your preparation much until you are serious about looking for a job. Sure, having a couple of recruiter contacts can keep you informed about your market value and make your realize you have other options (for those really bad days at work).
Many experienced long term employees don’t plan for the possibility that their jobs could be cut or replaced. Markets move much more rapidly now than they did 10 years ago. We are a much more global economy than ever before … it’s not just autos, steel, and electronics plant workers – today’s global economy means that US companies relocate white collar functions as well as blue collar workers. While rapid market growth can be great for some companies, quick changes can just as rapidly devastate others, due to cost, quality, value, and even unplanned obsolescence.
Employees who think this will never happen to them are same candidates who have the toughest time if they do lose their job. While preparing now won’t keep your name off the layoff list, it will make your search shorter, less frustrating, more productive and much more effective when do you search for your next position.
What can you add to your 2012 planning to start preparing for your next job search … before you have to?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Want to do more than just complain about a bad economy?
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Phil shows you why your current job search strategies work against you and how to replace them with strategies that improve your odds. Phil provides you with research - cold, hard statistics provided by job boards and hiring managers themselves, to show you what works for you and against you in the worst job market in our lifetimes.
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