Are YOU Prepared to be ‘Downsized?’
As this blog is being written, the sputtering economy—once again!—is slowing down. Notwithstanding a few recent glimmers of hope, unemployment remains stubbornly and intractably high. As a matter of fact, a recent news story claimed that chronic unemployment, i.e., unemployment among those who remain without a job for six months or longer, is actually a greater problem today than it was during the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression! And, unfortunately, we’re continuing to see, and feel, the tremors of layoffs and “downsizings” rippling through the workplace.
Who is affected? Potentially EVERYONE! Therefore, the wise man or woman will start doing things NOW that can make the difference between being adequately prepared if the “hammer” should fall on them and being “blind-sided.” Here is an all too typical scenario that is taking place with alarming frequency in the workplace of today:
It is Friday afternoon. You have had a busy week. Because of earlier lay-offs and continual “downsizing,” you routinely put in 9, maybe 10 hours a day to pick up “the slack” caused by the diminishing number of employees at your company. You’re looking forward to heading home and relaxing, enjoying the weekend. Maybe you’ll sit on the deck. Or cook hamburgers on the grill. Maybe tomorrow you’ll take the kids to the pool. Or perhaps you and your spouse will find the time to finalize your family’s plans for the upcoming 4th of July weekend.
But just as you are getting ready to leave the office, your boss calls and asks you to stop by his office. What’s up with that, you ask yourself as you begin the trek to his office. Probably just some last minute detail he forgot to mention this week about that project he recently assigned you. Nothing really to worry about, right? Still, you can’t ignore the uneasy, queasy feeling you suddenly have in the pit of your stomach.
“Hey, Chuck, what’s up?” you say in friendly greeting to your boss as you seat yourself comfortably in a chair in front of his desk.
“Jim,” he begins without any of his usual, easygoing, opening banter, “it really pains me to tell you this . . . but the company has decided to change direction and I am sorry to tell you that your position is being eliminated. This will be your last day with the company.”
Your boss certainly has a lot more to say, but not much registers after that. You literally go numb. Your heart is racing as though it is coming out of your chest. Your hands are shaking uncontrollably. How could this be happening?! Why didn’t you see it coming? What are you going to tell your wife? How are you going to make the mortgage payment? The car payments? Will you even be able to put food on your family’s table?!
Think this couldn’t happen to you? Think again! This scenario is today’s reality in the workplace. And it can—and does!—happen at any time, on any given day, to ANYONE. Including YOU!
Not about you, about them
While it’s certainly understandable how you could take it “personally” if you found yourself in this situation, in all honesty it really isn’t personal at all. It really is NOT about YOU. It’s actually all about THEM, with THEM being the employing company. The company wants—or needs—to increase profits, let’s say. One very quick, very effective way to accomplish that is simply to eliminate staff. And, if your head is one of those that has to “roll” in order for the company to meet its profit objective, so be it. The ONLY thing of any importance or significance to the company is that it meets its objective, in this case, increasing profit. How this affects you (or any other employee, for that matter) is of little or no importance! If it means that you have to go bankrupt, so be it! That’s simply the way it is in today’s workplace, and I don’t see any change coming on the horizon.
Once upon a time
Maybe once upon a now quaint time, long since passed, being a “loyal” employee actually paid dividends both to the company and to the employee. Usually, an employee’s unquestioned “loyalty” meant that they would be “guaranteed” a job with the company for most of their working life, that they could look forward to a comfortable retirement, the traditional “gold watch” at the end of their travails, etc., etc., etc. Make no mistake about it, though, no longer is that true, and it hasn’t been for quite some time, either! As the subtitle of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets suggests, “The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!” In today’s job market, your primary focus, your sense of “loyalty,” better first and foremost be on YOURSELF! In other words, you better start positioning yourself NOW, i.e., BRANDING yourself, so that you can gain better control of your own employment destiny.
Here is how to begin that process:
- Start thinking of yourself as an INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. After all, the true nature of an employer-employee relationship is this: you are actually SELLING your services, skills, knowledge and experience to someone, i.e., a company. In turn, the company agrees to give you money (and perhaps benefits) for those services.
- Learn to market YOURSELF, just as you would any other “PRODUCT.” Before a product—any product!—can be successfully marketed, certain attributes must first be identified and then properly emphasized. The same is true, of course, when it comes to marketing yourself. Determine what YOUR “product attributes” are. For example, are you . . . relaxed? Sociable? Persuasive? Sensitive? Quiet? Fragile? Enthusiastic? Competitive? Driven? Creative? Patient? Courageous? Someone who thrives on pressure? Are you resilient?
- I recommend that candidates I work with develop a list of at least 60 traits that best describe them BEFORE I begin marketing them to client companies. Oftentimes, this process can be simplified and expedited merely by taking a personality assessment. One that you might consider investigating is at this link: http://www.soicc.state.nc.us/soicc/planning/c1a.htm (NOTE: A much more comprehensive treatment of how best to identify and then emphasize your personality type, skills and attributes is featured in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets,” in the chapter entitled, “Bile, Blood & Phlegm.”)
- Assess how your “product attributes” have actually contributed to the success of companies for which you have worked.
Here are some examples:
o Fifteen years of progressive responsibility in key roles in (your field of specialty).
o Among the top 10% of all salespeople for the past eight years.
o Led a team that produced a new product that increased the company’s net profit by 5% in the first full year of production.
o Was a keynote speaker at the company’s 2008 “Sales Roundtable.”
o Received THREE “letters of commendation” for Outstanding Sales Achievement in 2010.
o Attained the Professional Engineer (PE) designation in 2009.
- Develop YOUR ‘Marketing Plan.’ (We spend nearly 150 pages in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets showing you how to develop an effective, comprehensive personal marketing plan.)
- Assume from this point forward that YOU could get that “pink slip” on ANY given
Friday . . . or Monday . . . or Tuesday . . . and BE PREPARED!
- Imprint this statement on your mind: There are only TWO reasons why a company hires ANYONE (or keeps them around!): You can MAKE ‘EM MONEY or SAVE ‘EM MONEY, or ideally, accomplish both of these things.
What did you do today?
What have YOU done TODAY to make a positive impact on your employer’s “bottom line?” Write it down, document it for future reference.
- Review the “How to be Headhunted” blog series featured on this site. Then, begin developing solid relationships with solid “headhunters” BEFORE you may actually require their assistance in finding a new job.
As an aside, a college professor told me years ago that you should always have at least THREE documents readily available: Your birth certificate; a copy of your grade transcripts; and an updated résumé. Do YOU have these documents readily available? If not, then obtain them. NOW!
None of what I have said in this blog is about finding a job. It’s actually about YOUR freedom, YOUR independence, about YOUR being able to control your own destiny—IF (I am sorely tempted to say WHEN!)—misfortune should befall YOU. It’s about BRANDING yourself NOW. Before it may be too late!
A story that amply illustrates what I have said thus far
We were recently recruiting for a position at a Fortune 500 company and had identified, qualified and attracted a very strong professional for the position. While he was a “passive” candidate, i.e., he was not actively “looking to make a career change,” he was nonetheless open to at least considering the position. He went in for the interviews and quickly bubbled to the top as the leading candidate. He was just days away from getting an offer for the position when he called me and said, “Skip, I am going to have to withdraw from consideration. The more I think about this, the more guilty I feel. My employer has been so good to me. I have a great relationship with my boss. I just had a good performance review and got a raise, albeit a small one. I have been with them seven years and I honestly believe I just need to stay here.”
You guessed it! Three weeks later he called me again. “Skip,” he asked, “is that sales manager’s position with the Fortune 500 company still open? I would like to continue the process?”
He had just been “downsized.” And unfortunately, we had just made an offer to the backup candidate.
Not unexpectedly, this professional was “blind-sided,” “shell shocked.” He was dumbfounded that he had just been tossed on the street “like a piece of garbage” (his words) after all of these years of service, a solid performance review, etc.
Don’t let this happen to YOU! Be ready. Brand yourself today and know the value that you bring. Be ready to take advantage of ANY career opportunity that may come your way. TODAY! Don’t wait until that fateful day to brand yourself.
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.