Few years ago, a good friend of mine gave me this piece of advice after she had been released from a position unexpectedly. Senior managers can get let go if they do not share in the management philosophy leadership promotes or believe in the plans the company is implementing to grow. Being fired is not only related to poor performance, which is something I have learned from working with candidates over the years. It can take one by surprise.
So back to the advice. She told me, “The best thing you can do, Lisa, is pretend you were fired today. You would start to make a list of all the activities you would do to land your next job.
Take that list, and while you are working, do one item a week to ensure you bases are always covered.”
She formulated this golden nugget of advice in hindsight. She thought she was secure with her firm since she was growing revenue. So she never went to lunch with people in her network. She did not have a resume ready or even loosely constructed. She did not make calls to former colleagues or school mates in business to stay abreast of their progress. I mean she was too busy working hard in her job.
She did not see that the direction of management was changing and, essentially, she did not share in this philosophy of this new direction. And one day, she was let go. She was blind-sided. She shared this piece of advice with me to ensure that it did not happen to me. And I have shared it with countless people over the years to pay it forward.
So let’s pretend you’re let go today. What would you do? Here are some things I would do to get myself back in the saddle again (this list is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order):
(1) Pull out the resume and ensure it is updated and reflective of my achievements (not just a list of tasks). Be sure I have a cover letter that can support my resume.
(2) Make sure everyone I worked with at any level is connected to me on LinkedIn.
(3) Get recommendations on LinkedIn where it makes sense.
(4) Put my vendors, clients, prospects and other external corporate connections into LinkedIn to connect with me.
(5) Devise a target list of companies where I would like to work based on industry, geography, discipline, or benefits needed.
(6) Shore up on certifications and necessary professional development requirements in my field.
(7) Look up when conferences related to my profession are taking place and make plans to attend.
(8) Join profession/industry related association to network with like minded individuals.
(9) Brush up on interviewing skills through a course and/or with friends that I trust to help me.
(10) Make coffee / lunch appointments with friends, former colleagues and other professional connections to stay current on what is going on in their lives, at their companies and in a global sense.
(11) Help someone with their professional goals: maybe introduce two people that can help each other; get your former colleague into a company he has been looking to gain as a client; mentor a student that is looking to obtain their first job.
(12) Get a massage—in other words, do something to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Now take the list—and start doing it now while you are working. Don’t get overwhelmed. Just put in your schedule one item per week to start. Call a former colleague and meet them for breakfast. Arrange to meet someone from another department you have not seen in months for your 3pm Starbucks run. Contact a local college for an interviewing tactic class. Is there a college grad in your extended family or neighborhood that needs help finding a job? Call them and ask what you can do to help. Helping people makes you feel good, allows the person you are helping get what they need and they will remember you when/if you need help in the future. We must give to get.
But Lisa, I am already not working…what do I do? Let’s audit the list. How many of the items above are you doing? When was the last time you invested in yourself – professional conference attendance, skill certification or personal care (you feel tired and spent, yes?—so take care of yourself to have all your energies to focus on the search). Have you created a target list? Are you marketing yourself using LinkedIn connections you know and those you do not know? Or are you just responding to job postings…you need to network and market yourself to land your next job. Passive searching will not work in this economy.
Bottom line is this. You do not need to practice this concept perfectly. And you certainly do not want to be so on top of networking for your next job (unless you are not working) that you lose your current job. But the key is to build your network in a genuine manner by helping and giving at a time when you do not need it, so if this happens to you, it will already be in place – or at least started – to help you when you do need it.
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