Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Shifting Gears After Job Loss

Picture: www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

     I haven't mentioned this, because we have been rather busy in the interim, but several weeks ago, one of my adult children, who works for a technology company, was laid off.  It's always tough to deal with a job lay off and all the implications of such.  The subject employer is restructuring their large technology department and many people who made high salaries there will be out of a job. This will be true across the country for employees and managers of this particular company.

                 When I was young, we were taught that we could make ourselves virtually lay off proof.  Being a valued employee, taking all the certifications and courses offered or possible through an employer, and doing a really good job with whatever the undertaking were just a few of those strategies.  However, there is no such thing now.  Perhaps, rather than making ourselves lay off proof, it probably makes sense to follow some of the strategies that maximize our marketability to other companies. Perhaps, gathering the ability and flexibility to shift gears rapidly is the skill for which we should be working.

1. NEVER live within your means, ALWAYS live below it.  Always save as much money as you can for rainy days.  Where you should put your money can and does change, but that you should save does not. Pay yourself first, preferably directly from the paycheck if possible. Then live on what is left.  Adjust this sum regularly, as needed.

2. Always keep an updated resume.  My kids have ten different versions of current updated resumes.  They do this because one focuses on one aspect of their education and training, and another focuses on others.  My eldest son, for example, doesn't include much detail on his resume concerning his sculpture degree, when applying for a technology job.  However, when applying for a fabrication job, he might go into some detail regarding his welding experience.    My nursing resume wouldn't have too much detail on my writing, although it is mentioned.

3. Keep a hard copy manila file of names and addresses of companies to which you would apply if your job today went South.  When there is a sudden layoff, it can be hard to recall the possibilities if you don't have the prework already done.  If you know the names and contacts of manager and human resources workers, that might help too.

4. Whenever you can, gather the names, addresses, e-mails and phone numbers of the people with whom you work and the managers and bosses that you believe would give you an excellent reference. Jobs and companies change so quickly now that it can be very hard to verify your employment somewhere.  There is absolutely no one left at Lockheed who was there when I was an industrial nurse.  

5. When people leave your present employer, stay in touch with them through Linkedin or via phone etc.   Many times, someone who has left your prior employer has gone to a company that may well be able to hire you too. Sometimes an encouraging word to a prospective employer from a new employee, is all it takes to get you hired too.

6.  This should go without saying but always treat everyone well.  Student nurses who once did clinical under me have later finished advanced degrees and have been my boss in future years.  My treating everyone well is why people know me to have integrity and why it has been rare that I have been treated badly in the workplace.   The other way of looking at this is that the people you treat well on the way up will be there for you on the way down.

7. Network not because you share the same profession, but because you are a human being genuinely interested in the people with whom you have worked.  Spontaneously networking doesn't work well.  Networking in the long term does.

8. Always keep a 3-6 month emergency cash cushion at the place of your choosing.   In Mr. Obama's "improving economy" it can take six months and an awful lot of resumes sent out in order to translate into an actual job offer.  That new job may not offer the salary to which you were accustomed.

9. If you are married, and you can, if both of you work, try to save the equivalent of one salary after taxes.

10. In the good times, try not to invest in really expensive cars that cost a great deal to maintain.  Always research the cost of car parts and routine maintenance of the car before buying it.  I think a BMW is a lot of fun to drive, but I don't like paying for even the oil and air filters on such an expensive car, and I'm not even going to start talking about Mercedes Benz, a Jag,  or a Bentley !  During a job loss a car whose parts can be found at the local Advance Auto will be a great blessing.

11. When you do buy a home, and chances are you will, buy a basic home in a decent area that will be a home for all seasons.   A McMansion might suit you as a young executive, but it won't suit you during hard times, and its maintenance and retrofits may be expensive. A cathedral ceiling could make the home hard to heat and cool.  Consider a home with a bathroom on the main floor in the event that you or someone else breaks a leg and can't navigate stairs for a time. Homes with a full bath and a bedroom on the first floor also make it possible for you and your spouse to "age in place" if you wish.  Since we can't possibly anticipate everything, life becomes about maximizing our choices in the future.

12.  Long term supplies of emergency food is not just for tornadoes, floods, civil unrest, etc.  Sometimes, especially after a job loss, we need the cash we have to pay the mortgage or to make hard copy resumes, our friends might take to work with them.   I know several families who ate out of their emergency pantry while their family was out of work.  It was the first thing they began to restock, once they were employed once again.   Food banks are wonderful, but many of them are stretched beyond capacity, as people like me who used to give regularly to them, can no longer afford to.

              My eldest child was able to find another job within the same company.  Of course, no job is guaranteed, and anything can happen. Entire departments implode sometimes.
 Best wishes to you and your employment, wherever you are.