Those living in a hurricane zone should expect a strike might happen from time to time, and so they should take precautions to eliminate or reduce damage. By closely watching for signs of approaching storms, and by working with their neighbors, they improve their chances of protecting life and property.
Anticipation and planning improve your ability to effectively cope with emergencies such as a storm—or a career crisis—even when its timing is uncertain.
Those who are always prepared for an unexpected job change are likely to suffer less than those who are caught by surprise. Job seekers should also lean on their networks to help them get through their job search and land one swiftly.
The saying "experience is the best teacher" means that we learn from mistakes and improve our knowledge and skills through repetition. Job seekers who have landed a new position have insights to share about job searching success. Why not learn from their experiences?
To think about you and your career as you would a client assignment—as a brand or product in a competitive market—is to be smart about your future.
For the past 12 years, I have collaborated with nearly a thousand candidates and honed my executive job searching skills; I am in a position to not only offer advice but also network purposefully to implement efficient, effective job search campaigns.
So apply the following 14 tips if you want to prepare immediately for stormy career weather that might well sneak up on you in today's job market:
- Heed the warnings! If things seem uncertain at work, start your job search engine in time to motor safely away from career danger.
Don't deny the signs of impending waves of reductions in force, an announced or recent merger or acquisition, appointment of new management, a new owner or controlling interest, the logical consequences of a poor performance review or Board meeting decision, being passed over for a promotion, more responsibility or authority, and so on.
Start job-searching; that is, launch a proactive networking-based campaign while you are still employed. Buy yourself time in addition to severance by initiating job search activities while still in your current role.
- Get your ducks in a row. Just as you would stock up on water, flashlights, or other provisions in advance of a storm, organize resources for conducting a successful job search while you still have a job.
Package yourself online: Review your LinkedIn profile, scrutinize its meaning for alignment with your future career goals, add recent accomplishments and keep revising achievements, experience, and skills. Ask for endorsements and recommendations. Update your status regularly if you have not been doing so consistently. Join appropriate groups and monitor discussions. Change your title to a headline indicating area of expertise rather than showing your active job title.
- Promote yourself: increase your visibility and accessibility. Participate in industry blogs by commenting or writing your own articles, publish a whitepaper, write a letter to the editor, schedule a program at an industry conference, volunteer to chair a meeting, organize a social activity for your professional colleagues, send compliments to authors, call to catch up with contacts, etc.
- Stock up on being positive and be generous by offering help. You have to give before you ask, in turn, for help. Don't let a negative attitude turn off those who might boost your spirits; offer concrete advice to those who need your help.
- Review your employment benefits, especially the status of your health insurance, disability coverage, life insurance, unused vacation or personal days, and the like. Make inquiries to secure bridge coverage if you need it.
- Get your financial house in order. Maximize your cash on hand to meet expenses if you find yourself not drawing a salary. Cut back on unnecessary purchases to accumulate funds for that rainy day.
Figure out how you will manage without a company car or other perks such as memberships, expense reimbursements, subscriptions, mobile services, travel reimbursement, laptop, etc. Get your own, not company-paid, mobile devices; you do not want to be unreachable or unable to access information even for one second!
- Set up a professional-sounding email account for personal business correspondence.
- Activate privacy settings on your Facebook and other social media accounts.
- Keep a personal copy of work contacts. You should always be networking, keeping in touch, exchanging ideas, offering help to dormant and active connections. The time to develop connections is before you need a job.
- Collect and save copies of personal files and work examples that are not proprietary. Save them onto your own electronic devices.
- Make a list of people you can rely on for support, advice, and mentoring. Start to reach out to them with a clear, compelling message that describes your professional image (e.g., Head of retail operations reporting to the COO at a large, global manufacturer and distributor in the beauty industry, with extensive experience breaking into new international markets, launching new products and integrating acquisitions) and specify how they can assist you (name specific target companies, or ask for a referral to a person you don't know to whom they can recommend you).
- Assemble a target company list and identify those who already know you and who have access to those organizations and may be able to provide unadvertised job leads.
- Develop your go-to-market strategy specifying who you are, what differentiates you from your competition, and what types of companies need your skills and knowledge.
- Update your resume to showcase your accomplishments relevant to the new role and showing prospective hiring decision-makers that you are their new dream employee and will smoothly and swiftly resolve their current and any future challenges. (Notice that revising your resume is not at the top of this preparation list.)
Research your target employer market and determine what those companies need that you can deliver before you start selling your qualifications for a new position. In other words, carefully and thoughtfully plan your job-search strategy before declaring your job-search campaign objectives, promoting your fit, and publishing campaign marketing materials.
Candidates who increase their understanding of the job market before officially hitting the street are usually better prepared to overcome barriers and present themselves more attractively than their competition.