Being Prepared for The Unknown
I was originally going to title this post “so you’ve been laid off” but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to bring up a few things that everyone should do before yahoo calls the big monday morning meeting.
I’ve been laid off twice now, which makes me a little unique among my Gen-Y peers, not just because I have bad faildar, but for many of you, this will be the first time that you will be laid off (“made redundant”, for those of you that speak the Queen’s English). The morning of a layoff is decidedly not the time that you should dig out the resume and start thinking about your career; even if you do not leave your present employer or get laid off, you will likely benefit from a little reflection on your career path. Below are just a few things that I feel are valuable steps to take as insurance should you be hit with a layoff.
1. Polish up your resume – The last time you had to write a resume, you may have had to describe that job you had where you dressed as a chicken at el pollo loco as “Product sample marketing manager” to help land that first job out of school. Now you have more experience under your belt, and it’s time to add those valuable tid-bits to your resume. Think about what position you would like to have in your next career move, and shape your experience to help you move toward that position. As in any company, your job evolves around you and your unique skill set, and often your position becomes remarkably different from your job description. You may have been hired as a “Project Manager” but your job evolved into “Account Executive”, so it would be better to seek jobs as an account executive, not a project manager. Ask friends for their input, or scour the web for ideas on how to improve your resume. Shameless plug, I along with several friends all received helpful feedback from theladders.com resume service. Sure, they mostly try to upsell you to their resume writing service, but really even the free feedback made my resume much better.
2. Network, Network, Network – This really could have been it’s own blog post, but I’m going to try to keep it high level. A few very important things to do:
First, if don’t already have a profile on LinkedIn, now is the time to start building that network. Once you have your resume to the point where you feel it is polished, you should add all of that information to your profile. Guy Kawasaki has a great set of tips for using LinkedIn . LinkedIn also recently released “groups” functionality to help broaden the reach of your network.
Second, you likely have made a lot of connections on a strictly business basis. If the only place where you have their contact information is in your office email, phone, and/or blackberry, you need to get all of this contact information into your personal address book. You will likely not be able to do this following a layoff, as there is likely to be an HR representative in your cube with you to help “recover corporate assets” Depending upon what systems you use, and how secure your office is about USB drives and the like, there is almost always a way to get your contacts exported into a universal format like .CSV. I know it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, while taking contact information is fair game, taking any proprietary information from your employer most certainly not. Microsoft has an easy export function to get your contacts out of outlook; Lotus notes is trickier, google is your friend to find the export specific to your version of notes. Once you have all of your contacts in .xls or .csv format, you can use the import function on Gmail (or whatever client your use, but really aren’t we all on Gmail now?) Be forewarned, the limit for importing .csv files is 3000 contacts, so you’ll have to spilt the file past line 3000 and run import again; oh, and who out there has that many contacts? If all else fails, you can always just print all of your contacts on paper.
Third, now is the time to start networking with your peers. I am personally a huge fan of meetup.com, but depending upon your occupation there are likely other organizations which will have regular meetings of like minded people. You don’t have to be in journalism, PR or technology to find organizations which meet on a regular basis, and you will likely benefit from connecting with peers even if you don’t use those connections to find your next career move.
3. Take charge of your finances – All puns aside, now is the time to take a good look at your complete financial picture. Study your bank accounts and take a good look at the discretionary items which you are purchasing. Do you really need 2 XM radio subscriptions? Are you still paying for that “free” AOL account you signed up for 4 years ago? Trim the fat now before you’re crunched for cash. If you’re not already using financial management software, you need to start. There are lots of free versions online, such as Quicken Online (totally free) or my personal favorite, Mint. These programs will download all of your banking info online, so it is relatively pain free to set up, and will help you decide whether you really should go out to eat for the 3rd time this week or stay home to save some money (here’s a hint: It’s the latter). Whatever you use, your goal should be to look at your “hard expenses”, like rent and car payments, etc; your “soft expenses” like groceries and restaurants and your “tertiary expenses” like hobby spending and nights out on the town. You can’t do anything about rent and car payments (not in the short term), but you can reduce or eliminate from the other two categories. don’t just look at a forward budget; spend some time looking at your history. It’s all well and good to say “oh, well we put aside $300.oo per month for food, but if you’re spending $500.00 per month, it’s not going to work out. Be realistic, look at your history and make the changes you feel you can stick with.
All in all, I hope that the layoffs skip you and these steps help further your career.