We were enjoying ten years of uninterrupted economic growth, and just like that, those days are over. With all the economic uncertainty, it’s time to face the fact that your job may not be safe. We here at Galecki Search believe that luck favors the prepared, so if you want to add a little luck to your career, now is the time to be preparing for a possible layoff. The better prepared you are, the quicker you will be able to bounce back. While this might be an opportunity to explore a new career path, you can still follow this advice if you like your career path and would like to get back to your role or a similar position.

Although economic conditions are out of your control, you need to remember there are several factors in your control. There is a lot of science out there that shows by focusing on the elements of your life that are within your control, you will substantially reduce your anxiety.

So what are the areas that you should be focusing on now? Your mindset, personal brand, ability to network, upskill opportunity, financial literacy, and unemployment literacy are all areas you can take action on now.

Mindset
The first thing you need to do is get yourself in the right mindset. The reality of being ousted out of your role and company can be deeply personal, bringing about negative feelings. It’s important to accept the circumstances for what they are. Only then will you be able to take control. Get introspective. Take a step back and evaluate your career taking note of what has worked and what hasn’t. You may think you know the answers to the following questions, however take a minute and write it down, you could surprise yourself!

  • Role – Have you been happy in your role? What would you change? Go beyond salary, benefits, and location. What would an ideal role look like? What aspects of your role did you like and want to keep? What areas would you like to improve?
  • Company – Are your values aligned with the values of your company or previous employer? Why did you join this company in the first place? What are the things you are going to miss? What are the things you are happy to leave behind?
  • Industry – Are your skills relevant to your current industry? Could you translate those skills to another industry? Do you have any gaps in your skill set that need to be filled to stay in your industry? Are there any new skills that you need to develop to move to another industry?

Personal Brand
Next you need to evaluate your personal brand. A strong personal brand is how the world sees you as a professional.

  • Peer Perception – You may assume you have a full understanding of your performance from your reviews; however, your peers are an invaluable source of feedback. Have candid conversations with current and previous peers about your strengths and areas of improvement. Identify themes to capitalize on the positive or work on constructive feedback.
  • Your Resume – Many, if not most resumes read like a job description. The best resumes catalog your accomplishments. It can be hard to figure out what and what not to include on your resume. We recommend the following exercise. Sit down and list everything out, and by everything, we mean everything. Every project or initiative you have been party to. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. The more the better. More detail will help you narrow down exactly what needs to be expressed in concise bullets. Plan to have a long-form resume that doesn’t get sent to employers, but one that you can pull appropriate experience from when preparing targeted resumes. Once you have the long-form resume, be prepared to tailor your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter (when applicable) using keywords from the description of the job for which you are applying. If this feels overwhelming, leverage recruiters in your field or career coaches, we work with resumes all the time and are happy to support you. Going forward: a pro tip. Keep your resume updated formally as a living document, and track all of your accomplishments on your long form resume throughout the year.

Networking
Regardless of your circumstances, you should be consistently networking. Having a strong, mutually supportive network of professionals will help you be nimble in your career. Since we are all sheltering in place, what can you do?

  • Attend virtual networking and educational events. Check out the Casualty Actuarial Society’s events HERE, the Society of Actuaries events HERE, and for data scientists, check out the Open Data Science Conference HERE.
  • Reach out to first- and second-level connections on LinkedIn to hear about how things are going with them and share how you are doing. Be sure to leave the conversation with a good understanding of how you might be able to help them now or in the future, and make sure they leave with the same understanding! Networking is a two-way street.
  • Get and stay active in LinkedIn and other online professional groups. Be visible on topics and people with which you want to be associated.
  • Be sure to keep your contacts organized and follow up with them on a regular basis.

Keep Your Existing Skills Sharp & Develop New Ones
You could potentially find yourself between jobs, so it is important to keep your skills sharp and relevant. Reflect back on the skills you have and what is required in your next role. Read job descriptions to see what employers are asking for and target those. Here are a few things you can do to keep your skills sharp and develop new ones:

  • Upskill your technical skills – We recommend shorter, virtual courses versus masters programs to learn skills like R, Python, and other data science languages, methodologies, and tools.
  • Consider short-term work – Seek out contract opportunities at employers you would want to work with full time.
  • Contribute to conferences, papers or upcoming legislative efforts – This not only a great way to keep your skills sharp and to keep your knowledge up-to-date, but to stay visible in your profession.
  • Offer your skills pro bono to public or private organizations – In addition to providing a social good, volunteering will keep you working and visible in the community.

Financial Literacy
In preparation of a layoff, you should take stock of your financial situation. Do you have enough savings? Are there expenses that you can cut? Maybe you don’t have a money philosophy, a budget, or savings. This is an ideal time to get educated and skill up in these areas. We recommend the following:

  • Get Curious – Read! A team favorite is Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin
  • Bolster your savings – This is also an optimal time to bolster your savings, during regular times, 3-6 months of expenses are recommended. During COVID times this may need to be extended.
  • Familiarize yourself with your post-employment benefits – Understand the transition of your benefits: health insurance, 401k, life insurance, etc. Learn how COBRA works and what the costs are. Make sure you know who your payroll and HR contacts are. Use any remaining benefits that expire once your employment ends (doctors appointments etc).
  • Understand Unemployment – Research state unemployment benefits and eligibility requirements for your state.

This is a time to be proactive. It’s not going to feel easy, but the payoff will be rewarding. We frequently talk to people who are blindsided by a layoff and it takes them more time than they were expecting to land their ideal role. Sometimes people even settle for a role they end up unhappy in. Don’t let this be you! Set aside the time and make the effort. By taking this advice, you will find yourself prepared for what comes next.

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