Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't fear the reaper

DISCLAIMER - You all know that I work in HR for a company - this post has NOTHING to do with my job or company. It is written in response to the recent news of enormous layoffs in some of Americas largest and most respected companies.

Whether you call it a "downsizing", a "rightsizing" a "redundancy" or a good old-fashioned "layoff" - it still means the same thing - people losing jobs. This topic is about as scary to most of us as DEATH or TAXES. The loss of a job is traumatic, and I don't mean to trivialize it here. No matter how frightening the topic, you need to consider the possibility as you plan out your career. Here are some key points to consider from someone who has been on both sides of the issue.
  1. Lifetime employment is a thing of the past - the average worker today will have 6 or more employers through their career so you cannot bank on having your Father's "20 year and a gold watch" career. Whether it is done at your choice or that of your employer(s), you will change jobs before too long so don't set your heart on being there till you retire.
  2. Like the Godfather said; It's not personal, it's business. No matter how it may appear, the reasons behind layoffs are rooted in a business need. You may disagree with the need or the logic applied, but you have to understand that it's not done to target you personally. Sure there are cases where it is, but you have a better shot at being killed by lightening while holding a winning lottery ticket, standing on a pot of gold than being truly "targeted" in a layoff, and an even smaller chance of proving it... so just go on as if it's not personal.
  3. Only the fittest will survive. Generally the folks who survive a layoff process are those who are best prepared. Being fit in this context has less to do with physical fitness and more to do with career fitness. The exercises that keep you fit in this regard are; keeping your resume up to date, building and maintaining your network, pursuing career and personal development opportunities and continually assessing the environment both in you company and in your field (especially with regard to who is hiring). The best and most prepared among us don't really "survive" a layoff because we are gone before it can touch us!
  4. What does not kill me makes me stronger. As stated earlier, losing a job is traumatic. Your income, lifestyle and pride are all in jeopardy, but if you keep these points in mind, you can survive and prosper. Losing a job through firing or layoff has been the catalyst that launched some of the most impressive careers in history - you can use this forced change to help you jump into a new future - something you may have feared doing up till now.
  5. Victim or Victor - the choice is yours. Given that this can happen to almost anyone at any time, your ability to avoid being laid off at some point in your career is slim and you can have very little control over whether or not it will happen to you. The only thing you can completely control is how you respond to it. Many go into "victim" mode - they grieve, rage, fume and harbor resentment... none of these actions will get you a new job. You have to make a conscious decision to beat your circumstances by applying a rational, reasoned and disciplined approach to moving on and accelerating your career beyond this hurdle. The choice to be a victim or victor is completely up to you.

Start preparing yourself now. Don't wait for the handwriting to appear on the wall. Keep your resume up to date, keep growing and developing yourself and your network and always keep up with your industry for opportunities.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back to school for the kids - what about you?

Summer is over. The kids have all returned to school. New bookbags, sharp pencils and a whole new world of learning in front of them. What about you? When is the last time you cracked open a book, studied a new topic or read anything besides the directions on bag of microwave popcorn?

Normally, I use this little pulpit of mine to preach about business learning, career management and all things HR'ish - today's rant is of a much more personal nature. Today we beyond professional development and focus on personal development.

I'm taking a cue from my kids and am starting some studies of my own this fall, and am devoting some time to a more academic pursuit beyond the development I am continually doing to further my career; I'm studying history. Now as you my have guessed by the theme of this little blog'o mine, I have spent some time in the military and have quite an affinity for all things green and explosive, so my history studies will focus on military history - ancient military history.

Now that I have shared a bit of my inner nerd, what is your passion? Do we have any closet-poets in the crowd? Perhaps a budding ornithologist in our midst. It doesn't matter what your non-work pursuit is as long as you have one. Such non-work stuff is widely accepted as a vacation for the mind, and let's face it... couldn't we all us a vacation now and then?


Find some area you are passionate about and invest some study in it. Whether it is history or world economics, you will surely gain insights that will benefit you along the way.

Carry on!