Posted by Adam Weissman, Director of IT & Legal Technology at Glenmont Group
So, the ancient Mayan calendar predicting Earth’s ultimate destruction and obliteration into dust, to be floated out into the infinite galaxy of once-was stars, apparently failed to account for the Western calendar’s nifty prediction-killer, aka the Leap Year. But, just in case our pride and astrological trickery once again blinds us to the sometimes unpredictable, but often inevitable, events affecting our survival, some folks have gone to great lengths to protect themselves, and possibly future generations. They call themselves Doomsday Planners.
Stockpiles of bottled water stacked next to a seemingly endless sea of non-perishables, cleaning products, first aid and medical supplies, and building tools, all neatly arranged in underground bunkers, “just in case”. Oh yeah, and weapons. Gotta protect all that hard work and investment from looters and poachers. (In my head, I assume looters and poachers are the gravest criminal threats to wasteland safe-houses.) But, it’s not just about having enough stuff to survive a major catastrophe. Doomsday Planners also have a strategy – Road maps, multiple escape routes, transportation alternatives, safe zones, contact points, and contingency plans for every single one of those. It may be a bit extreme and, possibly, borderline-paranoid thinking. However, in far less dramatic fashion, the same preparedness can and should be applied to events that happen every day in the business world.
Sometimes it’s tough to anticipate how to properly gear up for the unexpected events in life, but there are clearly courses of action that can be taken if “Doom” is staring you in the face. Despite the generally positive signs I have seen in hiring trends over the last 12 months with our clients (law firms, technology vendors, and Litigation and E-Discovery services providers) across the country, clearly not everyone is out of the woods yet. Do you have your strategy plotted out if your current employer suddenly announces they will be down-sizing, or announces the business is closing down?
Clearly, you are most attractive to a potential employer when you are still employed. According to the experts, many of us will be laid off more than once in our professional career. Mental preparation for this can be difficult, but remember it is survivable. It can undoubtedly be a very stressful time, as layoffs are not always rational. And, no matter what anyone tells you, even your boss, do not assume your job is “safe.” Your boss may be uninformed, or not, and may be laid off too.
For many people, life could easily go into crisis mode and hamper even the most rational thinkers from preparing for the next steps. While you don’t need 12-months’ worth of purified water, antibiotic cream, duct tape and a fortified underground shelter to persevere through a potential lay-off or period of unemployment, if you’ve done a little ground work and some planning (like end-of-the-world Doomsday Planners use their roadmaps, contact points, and contingency plans), you’ll feel more in control when the proverbial axe falls. Here are some things you can do in advance of being laid off:
- Don’t quit first. Resist the immediate feeling that you should just quit your existing job so you can focus on finding a new job. Being unemployed can put you at a disadvantage in the job market.
- Update your resume. The idea of getting laid off can be emotionally stressful. However, it’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate your professional interests and career path. Take the time to revise and update your resume. The sooner this is completed, the sooner you can begin to apply for new positions. Browse the Internet for sample resumes if it has been a while since you last wrote a resume.
- Save samples of your work. You will want to keep samples of your best work (ex. writing samples and publications) on a personal flash drive or email copies to a personal account. Samples of your work can be incredibly helpful when you pursue new job opportunities. Employees who are let go typically cannot access their company email accounts or files afterward. So, save anything you would like to keep for yourself immediately.
- Networking. Networking is very important as you prepare to embark on a job search. Touch base with those close to you to see if they know of any opportunities or connections you should explore. You can also consider developing your professional network of trusted contacts online through professional networking sites and groups.
- Collect written recommendations. If the wrecking ball has begun to knock down walls, get written recommendations before everyone scatters, particularly from your boss, and hopefully on company letterhead. Communication can be difficult or delayed once people leave the company. If your situation is less dire, make sure you can trust your boss to provide this for you without it jeopardizing your current employment.
- Put together a list of people who will serve as professional references for you. If someone had an opportunity to see you at work and seems to think you do a good job, ask if they will be a reference for you. Ask supervisors, managers, colleagues, and even people who report to you. Ask for their personal contact information so you can stay in touch after you or they leave your current employer. Get as many people as possible because there will be attrition over time. Be thoughtful and careful of whom you choose. If someone seems reluctant or does not agree, don’t use them as a reference. Negative or even non-positive or neutral references could actually hurt your candidacy for a job if a potential employer calls them.
- Be a reference for others. If you liked their work, be willing and prepared to be a reference for your colleagues, supervisors, and those who reported to you. This is one of the ways to start your post-employment networking, and that’s a very good thing for your future job searches.
- Get personal contact information from others you know in the company. In addition to people who may serve as references, collect personal contact information from colleagues as well as permission to stay in touch. Then, if/when you (or one of your co-workers) disappear from the workplace, you will be able to stay in touch through the coming months and years.
Former co-workers will ultimately be part of your network. They will also be a good source of support and information for you in your job search, as you can be for them in theirs. Also, the former employees of companies sometimes join together in an online ”company alumni group” to facilitate staying in touch.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities. Moving to another job with a different employer is often a good idea. However, conducting a job search while you still have a job isn’t easy. Find a job recruiter who specializes in your industry or job-type, discuss your circumstances, clarify your goals and needs in a new position, and utilize their service to uncover interesting positions for you while you are at work. A completed and updated resume will be essential in order for a recruiter to properly represent your relevant and valuable skills and experiences to potential employers, as well as identify appropriate opportunities to discuss with you.
- Update your interview wardrobe. If you haven’t been on the job hunt for a few years, make sure to assess your “interview wardrobe.” You don’t need designer labels, or custom-tailoring at most companies, but make sure your best professional interview outfit is clean and neatly pressed, and, most importantly, that it fits. A suit or skirt won’t necessarily get you the job, but it can very quickly cost you the chance to get one.