In my work with executives in career transition, I find two distinct groups. The first group includes those who never saw the change in employment coming. They were blindsided and bewildered by losing their jobs. The second group includes those who expected and even predicted the end of their tenure. The difference becomes quite dramatic as they move forward in their career transition.
The first group – typically – can be described as shell-shocked. They are hurt, angry, disappointed. Their confidence in themselves and their abilities is shaken. Often they blame individuals or circumstances for their job loss and tend to feel a bit victimized.
The second group, in decided contrast, tends to be quite philosophical. Although not thrilled to be “on the street,” they don’t take it personally and are able to move past the emotional roadblocks that stymie so many job seekers.
These observations are, of course, generalizations, and every individual responds to job loss and career transition in a different way. But for individuals inside your organization – or for yourself – the shell-shock can be minimized through activities like these:
Think of yourself as self-employed. There’s no relaxing when you’re self-employed! You are always looking for your next opportunity, you are 110% committed to client satisfaction, and you know that if you aren’t producing, you’re not getting paid. In a corporate environment, this attitude translates to high energy and a future focus rather than a “just doing my job” approach. Your self-reliance makes you a more valuable employee and, paradoxically, less likely to lose your job.
Understand the big picture. Where is your company going? What are its long-term goals? How does your work help advance those goals? A nose-to-the-grindstone attitude gets work done, but it doesn’t allow you to see beyond your own tasks. Keep up on the larger corporate picture so you can anticipate change and raise the value of your contributions.
Find a mentor. Even a highly placed mentor can’t guarantee your job security, but mentoring offers numerous benefits to up-and-coming professionals. You’ll get valuable feedback and career insight to help you rise to the next level – at your current company or elsewhere.
Set goals for yourself. Where do you want to go, and what do you have to do to get there? Hold annual or biannual review sessions with yourself to track your progress toward specific goals and recognize your accomplishments. This is another way to take charge of your own career – by working toward your own goals and not simply those set by your employer.
Stay current. Our world moves at a rapid pace, and what you know today may not be enough tomorrow. Strive to become the in-house expert in your particular field. Keep building your knowledge and share it with others. Become involved in professional associations and be a speaker or conference contributor – you’ll get noticed by people in other companies and by recruiters always looking for promising talent. Even if you have to pay out of your own pocket, your investment in professional development will pay off in many ways.
Understand and expect that every job will end. If you just want to hold down a job until you retire … you’re in the wrong century. This is a harsh truth for many people who truly want just to do a good job at a stable company. But the reality is that there is no job stability and certainly no company stability. Employers are rocked by market conditions and the need to stay profitable and competitive. Their needs change, and they won’t keep people employed who don't fit the new picture. This is not your fault and not under your control. Just accept it as the reality of our current work environment and set your expectations accordingly. If you don’t expect security, you won’t be devastated when you lose it.
Record your accomplishments. Whether you are moving up at your current company or looking for a new job outside, it is hugely beneficial to have records and details documenting your accomplishments. Keep copies of your performance reviews, any internal memos complimenting you on a job well done, or project reports and presentations. Include as many numbers and hard results as you possibly can. Your specific achievements support your request for a raise, help you when being considered for a promotion, and give you precisely the material you need to write a great resume.
Build your network. I recently heard from a job-seeking executive that “your network is the best intellectual property you can ever have.” He is absolutely right. Networking is a huge component of success in business and in job search, so learn how to tap into your network to get what you need … and to give what you can. Networking isn’t a mysterious and difficult task, it is simply the ability to talk to people, share what you have, and ask for what you need. You do it every day in your circle of friends – it’s a natural human activity. With a bit of conscious thought, you can make networking an integral part of your business life as well. If you do, you’ll find every job transition easier, and every job more successful.
Although jobs are less stable and secure, in many ways our work world is much more exciting than it was decades ago. Embrace the instability and position yourself for success wherever you go – and perhaps you’ll even learn to view each transition as an opportunity rather than a loss.
Louise Kursmark, MRW, CPRW, JCTC, CEIP, CCM, is one of the leading resume experts in the United States, Louise is the author of 20 books on resume writing and career management and is a Founder and Director of the Resume Writing Academy, the nation’s most comprehensive training program for resume professionals. She was the first person worldwide to earn the prestigious “Master Resume Writer” credential and is a 6-time “Best Resume” award winner. In her private practice, Best Impression Career Services, she works exclusively with senior-level executives to create powerful career marketing documents.
Louise is also Executive Director of the Career Thought Leaders Consortium and Director of BlueSteps Executive Career Services. A frequent presenter to corporate, recruiter, job seeker, and career practitioner audiences, she enjoys speaking about cutting-edge resume concepts, interview techniques, career marketing practices, and entrepreneurial success strategies to help advance the careers of her colleagues and clients.
President, Best Impression Career Services, Inc. (http://www.yourbestimpression.com)
Director, Resume Writing Academy (http://www.resumewritingacademy.com)
Presenter, 2011 and 2012 NCDA Global Career Development Conferences