Mar 19, 2017
Even though it has been misinterpreted and refuted, I do like President Kennedy's speech ironically here in my hometown (Indianapolis) back in the 1950s, where he shared a definition of the word "Crisis" = Danger + Opportunity, in Chinese. And even though the translation is incorrect, I still would like to think that anytime there is a crisis, there is an element of danger and opportunity within it. Danger and opportunity can lead to amazing things!
This is also true of one's career. There's been talk of mergers, layoffs, and restructuring abound in my world of pharmacy and pharmaceuticals, and I don't foresee that tumult ending anytime soon. I still get panicky emails from friends of friends each and every day who lost their jobs, and beg for answers to: "What should I do about this?" When radical change is happening around us at lightening speeds, the best one can do is prepare for the crisis when it comes along.
So, I wanted to write about 5 steps to take to not entirely insulate yourself from a career crisis, but prepare for it in advance should it ever come your way. My definition of a crisis here in your career is a layoff, company closure, random pink slip, or termination out of the blue. Most of our external lives are out of our control - but the one thing we can control is...our response to the environment around us.
Ready for some actionable items around this?
1) Prepare for it well in advance of a potential career crisis - You need to start saving and growing your FINANCIAL and SOCIAL bank accounts well in advance of any career breakdowns. Financial is the obvious - you need to save salary in a rainy day fund...preferably 6 months worth of expenses coverage, if not a full year or more. (And this is in addition to your retirement savings.) Saving your hard earned dollars for the crisis can give you breathing space to get over the shock of loss and focus on your NEXT great adventure, without your lizard brain being hi-jacked by fear/panic and taking any job that comes along first, which may not be the right job for you. Also, your SOCIAL bank account needs growth and fostering too. You want to build your network when you need it LEAST. That means, network OUTSIDE your company. Go to events and meet new people. Get around people who are NOT like you. Get around people who are SIMILAR to you but who work at different companies. Help others. Givers gain! Help other great people find work when they need it! Start saving your social capital just as you save for your rainy day fund--because again, the last approach you want to take when you have a crisis is to reach out to others who you don't know well and panic around asking them for jobs with no financial or social capital in the bank. That looks unprofessional.
2) Spread out your work - Never put all your career eggs in one basket, especially if you think your career choice is "safe" or "insulated" from economic downturns, and especially if you work for a big company. What I mean by this is make sure you have a side hustle. That could be an additional part time job, service on an association board, a part time entrepreneurial gig of your own (of course, the day job being cool with it), and/or do something outside of your day job on the side. Not only is this good for you, in that it trains your brain in broader ways of thinking and creativity enhancement, but it helps you build skills outside of your company that can be additive to your NEXT career move--whether that's by choice or not.
3) Be aware of what's going on in the wider world around you - If you're spending all your time in your day job at work, and you ONLY work at that day job, this is really not good at all, because if that work goes away, what else do you have? Nothing. I've generally witnessed that the larger the company an employee works for, the less likely the employees are to pay attention to what's going on in the wider world around them. (Not always, but generally.) This means getting savvy with social media. This means watching the news (as mud-slinging as it is). This means going to conferences outside and beyond your comfort zone. I've seen too many times where people get too comfortable working for a large employer for decades and then, when the rug is pulled out from underneath them, they're completely lost. Don't be in that situation. My best example of this is the buggy whip manufacturer. Back in the day, they could have been a fantastic top shelf buggy whip maker - but if they didn't pay any attention to the automakers...being the best buggy whip mfr no longer mattered. Stay relevant.
4) Be ready at a moment's notice for a new adventure - Some families have disaster plans in case of a weather disaster or the power grid going off line. You need to take this strategy with your own career as well. This means keeping your resume up to date at all times. This also means having an awesome and up to date LinkedIn profile (which I'm beginning to think is probably even more important than a resume these days). If you did great work on a project or with someone, ask them for a reference on your Linkedin profile. If someone did something amazing in a project you worked on, GIVE them an awesome reference per bullet 1 above, proactively. This means all the other 3 steps above, and this above all means--keeping an open mind. Always keep one eye open for new career or project adventures. Maybe you don't even need to leave your day job for your next big project or career adventure! But keep your eyes open, and be ready to jump on exciting opportunities when they head your way.
5) The one email you should send - If you did get that termination notice, give yourself a few days to quiet the lizard brain. Then, clean up your resume and LinkedIn profiles per above, and THEN you may send an email to your top 50 social network peers with a copy of your resume, and a request for ideas on what to do next. Tell them you have an open mind and will consider all possibilities. Describe your ideal next gig in a paragraph in that email, and let them put on their thinking caps. Follow up with everyone who responds to you. Stay in front of them. There's some literature out there that supports using your 2nd degree connections for optimal job opportunities here. Most of all, don't panic. Keep calm and carry on. And, if you did the previous 4 steps in advance, you'll be miles ahead of others still back panicking with their pink slips in hand.
There. Don't panic. Prepare. With these 5 steps, start planting the seeds NOW. Because one day the career crisis may come...will you be ready for it?
Erin Albert is a career coach and co-host of the pharmacy podcast, focused on pharmacy and healthcare career development.