Biz Doc: It Has Come To This

Career Emergency Plan

April 2009

It’s a cycle…  news feeds are buzzing with information about an increase in jobless claims:

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… The Labor Department reported [insert your favorite random date here] that new claims for unemployment benefits rose by X,000 last week to XXX,000. It marked the umpteenth increase in the past several months and was a further sign that the economy is feeling the impact of a steep slump in housing and credit crisis.  The surprisingly bad report increased worries that the hoped for economic recovery could be in danger of falling into a deeper recession..”
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When we look at a nation of 300 million people, it’s difficult to get revved-up about more jobless claims. Don’t many people get fired in a typical week for poor performance or otherwise behaving badly?

Yes, but that’s not the point. The issue is the trend.

If the US is, indeed, heading into a recession, it’s time to look at the industry you work in and objectively ask, “Are we next?” If you work in construction or the lending side of financial services, the truth is already clear and you are hurting.

The impact on other industries and markets takes time to materialize. For example, there’s approximately 100 pounds of copper in a typical new home. Copper mining and the manufacturing of pipes, faucets, water heaters and the like are in line to feel the pinch as well. You get the idea.

The question is this: Do you have a Career Emergency Plan?

Hotels have evacuation plans printed on the back of doors. Schools conduct fire drills. Prudent parents have plans for evacuating the house as well as reunion points in case of family or civil emergencies. Looking through that lens, what’s your Career Emergency Plan?

If your job was eliminated today, where would you go? Could you stay in your current community or would you be forced to relocate? These are questions you need to ask and answer today – before the need for actual implementation arises.

First, evaluate your skills.

More importantly, assess the applicability of your skills. Break the job and the industry apart. Avoid lumping your industry and position into the same description. For example, “I have been a copywriter in automotive marketing for 7 years.” immediately limits your applicability to the automotive industry. Instead, think of, and describe, yourself this way “I’ve been a copywriter for 7 years working on corporate marketing teams.” Get it? Now you are ready to sell yourself to potential employers in other industries.

Second, take a wider look at the industry in which you work.

How is it similar (or not) to companies in other industries in your community? If you have skills that are applicable to different industries, you have a path to take if the industry you are in takes an economic dive.

Third, keep the size and type of company in mind.

If you have been a corporate manager for several years, you know the ins and outs of layered management and the pains of bureaucracy. On the other hand, if smaller companies have been your habitat, you understand the extreme importance and impact of every person and customer.

Fourth, put it all to work in a “fire drill” setting.

Stay generally abreast of the hiring pace of companies in your community. Ask yourself the question, “Could I take my skills there?” Play out your Career Emergency Plan in your head from time to time – just like the walk to the playground at school fire drills.

Additional guidance down this line of thinking is detailed in my book The Rat, The Race, and The Cage.

Good luck.

“…black cat crossed my path, no reason to run and hide,
you’re looking through a cracked mirror, no one knows the reason why.”
Bad Luck – Social Distortion


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