“It’s hard to know which way to go when you are blindsided by something like this. It’s literally one step in front of the other right now. That’s as far as you look.” Al Harrington
The following is based on actual events. The stories are true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. (Dragnet, 1951)
This is a tale of 2 long term employees of a major corporation. The company was viewed as a good place to pursue a career. In addition, this company was fortunate to have a visionary leader with an excellent reputation in his particular industry at the helm.
Alas, nothing remains the same. Change is inevitable. The message of this story is to pay attention to what is going on around you, be aware of industry trends, rumors, changes at the top, acquisitions, etcetera. All of these things may seem to be at the macro level, but as you will see, they ripple out to affect you at some point.
Employee # 1
Realized that several years ago when the CEO of the company retired, and of course was replaced by someone who might have a different style with different goals for the company; that perhaps the culture of the company would change. That the values might change. With this awareness tucked away, he continued to perform at a high level. But all the while working on growing and supporting his network, maintaining his contacts, gathering new contacts. He maintained a presence on LinkedIn keeping his profile current and up to date. Helping other connections if they needed help, he demonstrated his relationship building abilities. Keeping his eye on the big picture and where he fit in.
Employee # 2
Was frankly clueless about the changing culture of the company. This person had tunnel vision regarding his turf. He failed to notice that perhaps things were moving in a different direction. That the work he considered so valuable might not be viewed this way by the company. Or perhaps other departments could absorb it more efficiently. Or perhaps this function could be outsourced. He did not put energy into anything other than to produce work; a worker bee. He was not maintaining or growing a network, inside or outside of the company.
This individual was so confident of his work product, his job performance,that he felt he didn’t need to consider the bigger picture.
Unfortunately as is often the case today, due to a major downsizing and reorganization of the company, both employees lost their jobs.
Person # 1 was upset, naturally, but not entirely surprised. There were signs that there were changes afoot and this person felt his position could be eliminated.
Person # 2 was totally blindsided. Even when he received the dreaded email requesting a meeting, he thought that something good was going to happen; maybe he was being promoted, maybe they wanted his input regarding how changes would affect his department. He was devastated and shocked when he was told that his position had been eliminated.
So although both people lost their jobs, one is more prepared psychologically and better positioned to begin networking immediately. The other is in shock and has not maintained connections that can be beneficial in a job hunt.
No one is immune from companies deciding to cut costs, drop certain product lines, cease operations. It is their right. It is our responsibility to be aware that this could happen. That you are not guaranteed the right to keep a job for 40 years or be allowed to retire from that job with a party and a plaque! Even if you are a few months away from retirement.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your work, the quality of your job performance, your loyalty will protect you. If a company decides that eliminating your position makes financial sense, it doesn’t matter who you are , how long you have been there , your age, how highly regarded you are by your boss or admired by your coworkers. In both of these situations the bosses were the first to be walked off the property. They are not in a position to advocate for you.
We used to say focus on being indispensable, focus on being a linchpin where people value you so highly that you are untouchable.
What I advise my clients:
Do your best. Do good work and develop a great reputation. It will sure help you when it comes time to move on, but it’s not going to protect you from mayhem! We all know many amazing employees who have been fired or laid off for different reasons and for no reason!
So you need to work both sides of the street. Be really awesome but prepared to jump ship if the need arises.
Create and maintain a network.
Keep your resume updated.
Keep track of your work and projects with metrics if possible.
Keep your skills current- keep taking classes, courses.
Maintain a current LinkedIn profile and post regularly. LI is a marketing tool for your brand!
Most of all develop a “me first” attitude. Identify those things that you need to do to be relevant and attractive as an employee. Invest in those things. Don’t put the company first at the detriment of you first.
Develop an attitude that you are a product. You are a brand. That you stand alone with these attributes whether you work for a company or for yourself. And if the company decides that they don’t need or value your brand anymore nothing personal but you need to take it, package it and sell it somewhere else. Hopefully you will be prepared to be resilient and nimble and you won’t be blindsided.