Five Steps to Prepare for a Layoff Whether You’re Expecting It or Not

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.

“Insuring” Your Career Against Pandemic Risk

The COVID-19 Pandemic is potentially the single most transformational event to occur to the U. S. Economy since the Great Depression of the 20th Century.  What that means for the job market and the property & casualty insurance industry remains unclear. The one certainty is that this event will change how we interact and conduct business for the foreseeable future and perhaps indefinitely.

Below you will find a quick summary of what Galecki Search Associates has seen in the job market since the beginning of the crisis. Also, you will see some recommendations on how to shore up your career, and more importantly, stay motivated to advance your career goals during a very stressful time.

What are companies doing?

Given that social distancing could become the norm for as long as it takes for a vaccine to be developed, and the most optimistic timelines put that at 12 to 18 months, companies will have to adapt to the new normal of a remote workforce. Some progressive companies were already reaping the benefits of workplace flexibility before the crisis, and it is those companies that are well-positioned to operate and compete in this new environment. The companies that cannot or will not adjust will be left in the lurch.

Internships

Companies are currently evaluating their options for internships this year. Most, if not all, have decided to push start dates out to the beginning of June. Of the companies interviewed for this article, all have decided to proceed with their internships, but with some modifications.  The most discussed modification is compressing the internship to 6 to 8 weeks. Grappling with how to engage with their interns, some companies are considering reducing the hours to 20 or 25 per week. Overall, most companies have demonstrated a strong commitment to delivering the best possible internship experience given the current circumstances. Most reported that they are seeing widespread interest among executives to participate to help drive engagement.

Full-time Hiring

For now, about half of the companies in the P&C industry are continuing to recruit, interview, and onboard new employees. The companies that are doing this well have served as a bright spot through the past month. We have observed that companies are either continuing to press forward on openings or pausing until social distancing guidelines have been lifted or relaxed.  The companies that are continuing to hire are doing everything virtually, and as such have been able to move through the interview process extremely quickly. Galecki Search Associates has seen several hires made in under a week from start to finish.

In general, the economic outlook for the P&C industry is positive. Many companies are issuing rebates given there has been a dramatic decrease in automobile claims. While this will keep personal lines insurers on good footing for the medium term, we will see a decrease in demand for auto insurance like we did in 2008. Then the industry as a whole took a momentary hit, but recovered quickly. Given the COVID-19 crisis is developing daily, be prepared for many more twists and turns.

What can you do to adapt?

The good news is that companies are hiring. So what can you do to protect your career during this time of great uncertainty? Here are some recommendations to ensure that your career keeps its forward  momentum and you stay motivated throughout the process.

Reflect

The world just slowed down considerably, so this is an excellent time to stop and reflect on your career goals. Can your goals be realistically achieved in the short to medium term or do they need to be adapted to the current circumstances? Has there been a technical skill you have been putting off learning? This is an excellent opportunity to learn R or Python to set yourself apart from the competition in the tight job market to come.

Research

Use this time to research companies where you may want to work. Get a deep understanding of the culture and the skills of those that they hired in the past.  Find out who the hiring authorities are, and reach out to network. Read the news and look at ways companies and people are adapting, and apply those to your life where applicable. For an example outside of insurance, we can look to the restaurant industry. Restaurants that are closed for dine-in service have created numerous curbside options like “survival kits” by repackaging their unique access to the food supply chain in light of grocery store food shortages.

Network

There perhaps has never been a better time to network than now.  People are isolated and in need of human connection. Use LinkedIn to reach out to warm leads, that is people in your network that you may know already.  Remember to approach people with an offer versus a request — maybe an article that you found interesting or an offer to make an introduction that might be valuable to them.  Don’t ask for a job or work opportunity, and remember that networking is a long-term strategy to create connections. You are going to get three types of responses: no response, a negative response, or a positive response. If you do not get a response, follow up later by taking a different tact or by using a different channel.  If you get a negative response, do not respond reactionarily but rather gracefully. For any positive responses, come up with a system to keep in touch (calendar, Google Sheet, task manager, etc.).

Consider Alternate Paths

Your career aspiration is your destination, and there are many ways to get there. This is a time to be creative, resilient, and most importantly, flexible. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth,” and Dwight D. Eisenhower is credited for saying, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Treat your plan as the living, evolving thing that it is.  Update it to be more aligned with the current realities, and give yourself some grace. You’re probably not going to cross that finish line as fast as you originally thought, but the important thing is that you finish the race.

Cultivate Patience

One of the best things you can do now is stay in the moment. As of this writing, there is no end date or timeline creating a lot of anxiety.  Create a routine. Routines can anchor you to present and help build beneficial habits like working out or journaling. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is the subject of an ever-growing body of scientific research that has almost universally endorsed the practice as overwhelmingly beneficial.  The benefits include reduced stress, increased attention spans, improved memory, and better sleep. Meditation is a great practice regardless of the circumstances. Practice gratitude. Whatever is going on in the world and in your life, you always have something to be grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal, and jot down a few things you are grateful everyday.  This will help you focus on the positives in your life rather than the negatives.

Overall, I recommend that you not take yourself too seriously and remember that bumps in the road happen.  Do what you can to remain positive and keep forward momentum in your career. You will get through this and be stronger for it in the end.

Originally written for and published on the Casualty Actuarial Society‘s CAS Student Central Future Focus Blog.  Reproduced here with permission.