Saturday, February 14, 2009

Strategies to prepare for a job loss

There is no guarantee of much in life except death and taxes. That means my job is not secure, I may become seriously ill or become homeless due to fire or natural disaster. I found it even difficult to type about these issues because it is not easy to contemplate. While I am confident that my company will be fine for the next two quarters, I have no predictions about six months from now. I think our position will still be more than adequate, but circumstances can change unexpectedly.

Like many of you, my friends and family are talking about contingency plans, hunkering down and cutting expenses just in case income is cut to one salary rather than two. For others, it is from one salary to none. The husband of one of my colleagues is one of 84 men left standing at his company after 16 were recently laid off. My mechanical engineer cousin works for General Motors in Flint, Michigan, and GM just announced it would lay off 10,000 of its salaried employees and cut the salaries of those that remain. His income supports his wife and six children.

Feeling scared or apathetic can paralyze you and me from taking action in the face of possible threats to our welfare. While my immediate future will be occupied with decluttering, doing my taxes and listing the items I have stockpiled, there are steps that can be taken to deal with the possibility of a layoff in the future.

Look at your spending.
What can you reduce or eliminate from your current pattern of spending? Small steps like eating out once or twice a week instead of five days a week or reducing the features on your calling plan are a good place to start reducing expenses. Eliminating entire categories (e.g., cable television or vacations) could drastically affect your bottom line. Figuring out how to spend less than you earn now means if you lose your job and your next opportunity cannot match your current wage or salary, you can live within your reduced means.

Think about other revenue sources.
Are there things that take up space or remain unused? Consider selling a motorcycle that sits in a garage eight months out of the year or renting out a room just used to hold stuff in your home to bring in more money. If you have a way with animals or children, think about offering your services to those who need to have pets looked after or need more time at work than just the hours kids are at school. With gardening season starting up with seed orders and seed starts, think about growing extra and selling them to other, more lazy gardeners (i.e., me) to earn a little cash. You might consider offering your physical labor to help get an outdoor garden or landscaping project started (and even maintain it) for neighbors and friends who have more plans than time (i.e., me).

Keep your resume up-to-date.
I am guilty of not doing this at-least annual project. This is a true investment because having a resume ready at a moment's notice means you can take advantage of an opportunity that has caught your eye even if you are not looking to leave the company you are at. A few modifications to tailor the resume to the possible job, a good cover letter, and you may have just found yourself an interview for a great new position. If the worst should happen, a prepared resume means one less task that needs to be completed under the stress of an emotionally devastating job loss.

Reflect on what you have.
For many people, his or her job is closely identified with who he or she is. Enjoy time with family and friends. Laugh at your child's antics, your father's bad puns or the crow walking across your lawn. You are more than a job. You are a human being with connections to other human beings who care for you. Indulge in a rewarding hobby like reading, biking, painting or knitting. Give and receive as many hugs as possible. Physical affection is always emotionally rewarding. Be grateful for your health, your family, your friends, your pets, the beautiful tree in your yard and the warm greetings from your neighbors across the hall or across the street. If you have the opportunity, volunteer for an organization or event. I find it rewarding to help out and feel like my time was well-spent.

These strategies may not find you a new job, but will help as you look for your next opportunity. Expanding your network and exploring your interests will benefit you both in the short-term and long-term. That event at the library may be the key to the next job or to connect with a person that becomes your next best friend and/or business partner.

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