What if you walked into work tomorrow morning and your boss told you that you were fired, your position eliminated, or the company was downsizing—which, unfortunately, meant that you must go? Or, worse, what if your entire company was closing down (which is happening more and more these days)? What would be your plan, then?
Getting laid off often comes as a complete surprise, especially to those employees who share their management’s philosophy and plans for their company to grow. Reasons for being let go can take many forms, and most employees feel that as long as they're doing a good job for the company, making them money, meeting deadlines, etc., that they're safe. However, that's simply not the case.
Recently, a colleague of mine had been released from a position unexpectedly. She was a top producer, had been with the company for 11 years, and had mentored other producing employees. Yet she was let go. She never saw it coming.
"The best thing you can do [to prepare for such a situation] is pretend you were fired today," she told me. "Then, you'd start to make a list of all the activities you would do to land your next job. You'd take that list, and, while you're working, do one item a week to ensure your bases are always covered."
My colleague formulated this golden nugget of advice in hindsight. She thought she was secure with her firm since she was growing revenue. So she never went to lunch with people in her network. She didn't have a resume ready or even loosely constructed. She didn't make calls to former colleagues or schoolmates in business to stay abreast of their progress. She was too busy working hard in her job.
And, one day, she was let go. She was totally blindsided.
She shared this piece of advice with me to ensure that it didn't happen to me, and I've shared it with countless people over the years to pay it forward.
So let's pretend you're let go when you walk into work tomorrow. What would you do? These eight steps should help.
1. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are updated and reflective of your achievements, ensuring that they aren’t just a list of tasks; also be sure to have a cover letter ready that can support your resume and profile.
2. Make sure everyone you’ve worked with at any level is connected to you on LinkedIn.
3. Get recommendations on LinkedIn where it makes sense.
4. Put your vendors, clients, prospects and other external corporate connections into LinkedIn to connect with you.
5. Devise a target list of companies where you have worked based on industry, geography, discipline, or benefits needed.
6. Update your connections on LinkedIn strategically and start setting up lunch/coffee appointments.
7. Brush up on interviewing skills through a course and/or with friends you trust to help you.
8. Help someone with his or her professional goals. Maybe introduce two people that can help each other, get your former colleague into a company he's been looking to gain as a client, or mentor a student that's looking to obtain their first job.
Now take this list and start knocking it off, item by item, while you're still working. Don't get overwhelmed. To start, just put one item per week in your schedule. For example:
Week One: Get your LinkedIn profile up to speed to be what recruiters will want to see. (It also might help to follow those in the industry who provide tips on resume writing or career advice. That can be instrumental in staying up-to-date on the latest advancements and ways of doing things.)
Week Two: Call a former colleague and meet them for breakfast.
Week Three: Arrange to meet someone from another department you have not seen in months for your 3 p.m. Starbucks run.
Week Four: Contact a local college for an interviewing tactic class.
Week Five: Is there a college grad in your extended family or neighborhood that needs help finding a job? Call them and ask what you can do to help. Helping people makes you feel good and allows the person you are helping get what they need, and they will remember you when/if you need help in the future. We must give to get.
And, like this, you continue to knock off the items on your list, and in under two months, you've well prepared yourself for an unfortunate situation such as a layoff. And if an unfortunate situation never arises (which hopefully it doesn't), you've prepared yourself for the next stage in your career—when you'll want to start looking for more responsibility, more money, and a better-fitting position.
A version of this post previously appeared on ChameleonResumes.com.
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