Shutdown, Laid Off: Make Effective Backup Plans A to Z
The partial shutdown of the federal government affecting 800,000 workers plus recent layoffs at major newspapers, retail stores and company takeovers show every leader, entrepreneur and professional needs a plan for unanticipated, sudden changes in income present and future.
Everyone at some point in a career can be blindsided. Such sudden changes can be catastrophic.
We would never minimize the impact on an individual or a family. This strategizing is about having a plan in your back pocket for a surprise, outside decision you could not have predicted that changes everything.
The hardship of not reaping a paycheck you have earned or being furloughed without warning is real and extremely difficult.
Aside from securing emergency funding and making sure you are able to weather the hardship, here are five ways you can perhaps cushion the abrupt shifts ahead of time and in the crisis.
Do not blame yourself. Do not waste time and energy berating yourself for missing signs, not being prepared or having instincts about the change. Sometimes these decisions are out of the blue. You can plan for catastrophe that no one could predict. “Grieve, but also start looking for a way to move forward,” writes Phyllis Brust in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Employ every medium. This is Leadership Power Tool #8 as created by Take The Lead co-founder and president Gloria Feldt. She writes, “Use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of the power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your ‘Power To.’” In the case of a sudden change in your plans, keep your website, blog, professional social media sites up to date, current and active. “Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete with current content, industry keywords and a clear value to help get you passively located by employers and recruiters. Almost all recruiters are on LinkedIn, so you must be, too. Increase your online visibility by consistently engaging on the site. Network in groups, share thought leadership posts related to your field, and build your connections.” writes Adrienne Tom in Forbes.
Stay current and network actively. Stay up to date on your field and regional news for your market. Even before a shutdown happens when all is going well, keep current on who is heading what new company, what is the latest news in your area. You can follow industry B2B (business to business) publications online and join associations and organizations connected to your line of work. Try never to get in the position of working with your head in the sand about what is going on with competitors or related fields. You may at any point need to shift to another company, so keep relationships and possibilities alive. If you maintain fluid relationships in your field, you will be apprised of new opportunities and it will feel natural to call on a network associate to seek information. Networking effectively does not mean randomly calling people and asking “to pick your brain.” If the relationships are real, you can ask for help quickly and in an emergency without making the person feel used.
4. Polish the narrative. Create a short, credible explanation for why you are out of work. “You don’t need to lie. You just need to give one reason, not every reason. So for example, if you got laid off because your division was underperforming, you don’t need to talk about the underperformance — just the layoff. Therefore, when asked why you left your last job, simply state that you were part of a layoff, then subtly change the subject to why you are excited about this next opportunity,” writes Jill Huggett in in Forbes. This also aligns with another Leadership Power Tool, #9, created by Feldt: Tell your story. “Your story is your truth. Your truth is your power. Telling your story authentically helps you lead (not follow) your dreams and have an unlimited life,” Feldt writes.
5. Revisit your short and long term goals. You can create next steps quickly if you are not always starting from scratch. It’s a solid idea to keep checking in on your three, five and 10-year career coals, perhaps quarterly, long before you are laid off. In those reflective sessions, ask yourself in a sudden event, what would you do next if this job, position or company evaporated. Keep those ideas alive by actively maintaining connections and staying up to date. It’s sort of like knowing where the oxygen is on the airplane in case of an emergency. Know what you will do if you need to make a move. If you have not kept up with how you see your future, this is a perfect time to do that and make the steps actionable and doable. Nothing vague, but be very specific.
6. This is not a good thing, but it can be OK. Yes, it stinks. You likely have anxiety and true, concrete concerns about how you will make it without a dependable source of income. It can also be a motivator. “It gets your adrenaline going and heightens your perception of reality. Running scared may also teach you to work smarter, to be more organized, disciplined and responsible. You pull out all the stops to satisfy colleagues and clients. You learn to budget your time and always make your numbers. You recognize all over again the inestimable value of mutual respect and candor and civility. Setbacks like a layoff tend to keep you honest,” writes Bob Brody in the Wall Street Journal.
You may have to dig into savings, borrow or adjust mightily to meet all your obligations.
The boat has tipped, and it is up to you to right the ship. And move forward.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com