October 9, 2008
How to build a layoff survival kit
Last month I wrote about some steps you can take if the worst happens and you lose your job. Along with "Palin," "election," "bailout," "foreclosure," and "401(k)," the word "layoff" seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue these days.
And while I can tell you how to be a good employee and make sure you don't move to the top of your boss' you-know-what list till I'm blue in the face, even the biggest brown nosers can get laid off, especially in an economy like this. So instead, let's talk about some steps you should take to build a layoff survival kit, so that if you do get pink-slipped, you don't have to start your job hunt from square one.
1. Save work samples. This can include emails from satisfied managers, customers, or colleagues. It can also include statistics on how much money your efforts have saved -- or earned -- your department. And of course, don't forget to save those tried and true deliverables -- presentations, documents, products, marketing materials, press coverage, and so on -- that you had a hand in making happen. Email copies of all non-proprietary information to your personal email account, as in, this week. If you lose your job, you may not be thinking clearly enough to do this. You may not even have the time.
2. Cultivate a reference list. Obviously you don't want to approach a manager or coworker and ask if they'll be a reference for you should you lose your job (or decide to leave the company). But you should try your darndest to cultivate relationships with at least two colleagues or higher-ups (three or more is even better) who would vouch for you if you and your company were ever to part ways. Who knows? These folks may even be able to refer you to other job leads if you suddenly find yourself out of work. To make sure you don't leave the company in a hurry without these crucial email addresses and phone numbers, save them on your computer at home.
3. Make friends in your industry. If you're anything like I used to be before I started working for myself, you probably think that professional networking events are just for out-of-work folks looking for their next paycheck. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best time to cultivate allies and contacts at other companies in the industry -- people you can call on for potential job leads should you find yourself out of a job -- is now, while you still have an employer and are in the power seat. Fortunately, Seattle offers a cornucopia of professional happy hours and schmoozefests. Visit ILoveSeattle.org to find a group that speaks to you.
4. Keep your skills current. You know all those web, mobile gadget, and software tricks your younger coworkers know how to do that you don't? Well, it's time you learned. Because if you wind up on the street, you're not going to have Jenny, who's always showing you how to install the latest version of your company's proprietary software, or Joshua, who's always reminding you how to make a paragraph break in HTML, to show you what to do. Don't be the old dog without any new tricks; hiring managers won't be impressed. While you're surrounded by workers you can learn something from, be a sponge. Even better if your employer will pay for you to attend a technical training or professional development workshop or two.
5. Update your resume. If you haven't updated your resume in five years, now might be a good time to do it. There's nothing worse than having to update a resume on the fly when you're suddenly out of work and a golden job lead comes along. If you have to wait a day till you can fine-tune your resume (and get a savvy friend to give feedback on it), that job you had your eye on might already be gone. While you're at it, you may as well create a profile on a professional networking site, which can also help with item number 3, above.
6. Sock away some cash. I know, I know. Trying to save money right now is about as laughable as trying to get through the day without hearing someone utter the words "Wall Street" and "Main Street" in the same sentence. But unemployment benefits only last so long. And according to recruitment firm Adecco USA, only 25 percent of Americans are saving their pennies in preparation a potential job loss. To join their ranks, ask yourself if you could just eat in and rent a movie this weekend instead of paying $10 for parking, $60 for dinner, and $20 for movie tickets. If you lose your job, wouldn't you rather have that $90 in your pocket?
In other words, start sewing your own parachute today, just in case. Because I think we all know by now that no one's going to bail us out but ourselves.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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