Corporate Refugee Yet?
Yes, this is that jolly time of year when companies think of paring expenses. And just what do you think costs companies in the United States more than anything else? That’s right, you! People are the most expensive item on a company’s balance sheet. So, don’t take it personally, it’s just business that turns hundreds of people into corporate refugees.
What can you do to prepare for this career downturn? Number one, no matter how bad things are at your job, don’t quit unless you already have another job lined up and you can just give your two weeks notice and quietly exit with a smile on your face. If you see the handwriting on the wall, and you sense layoffs are in your future, start to plan for your exit. Don’t make waves, because large corporations offer useful benefits to many of their laid off employees, and you don’t want to be terminated before picking up those bennies. First of all, you may be entitled to a severance package, complete with other perks such as free outplacement center services, including resume and cover letter help, along with executive coaching. These perks can be invaluable to you if you want to land on your feet. Also, some companies may offer other benefits such as tuition reimbursement programs and low cost professional headshots to proudly display on your new resume and LinkedIn Profile pages. Furthermore, the company has invested in you. You now have years of training and experience you otherwise would not have had for free. Regardless of your relationship with the company, you will always have those certificates and awards you earned while in their employ, and all the specialized the knowledge you gained from working there.
If you’ve already quit in a huff, and have no plan B, your choice are a bit more limited, but you still have options. While you wait to recover your “dream” job, take any employment you can find to bring in a paycheck. You may have been a waiter in college or worked in retail. See if you fit back into those roles for now. You may need to work two jobs to keep up with the bills, but at least you won’t be without money coming in, and you’ll preserve some semblance of your dignity. All the while, you are continuing to define what it is you want to do in your future, and making plans to do it. Maybe your next step requires some additional training or formal education. In between jobs is a great time to take care of investing in yourself.
There is also the chance that you may want to start your own business. Looking into what is offered by your local chamber of commerce and small business administration is of great value for new entrepreneurs. Your former company taught you a lot of skills, you may be able to apply them in your own business. Or maybe you have a hobby that you can expand into a small business. Now is your chance to explore those options.
Don’t forget the importance of networking, and rubbing elbows with people that can help you. Who knows, you may run into other corporate refugees who might benefit from your experience, or someone you can partner with to start a new venture. Pay attention to the conventional wisdom, too. When on an interview or in a networking situation, always dress the part, in other words, dress for success. Wear clothing that you see on the person in the next level up from the job you want. That way, you look like you are ready to jump in and hit the ground running. Make up some business cards with your contact information on them. Handing out a business card is more professional than scrambling for pencil and paper when you meet someone you want to keep in touch with.
The point is, you have to be ready for and open to new opportunities. Be able to think outside of your comfort zone. Maybe to get a similar job at a similar salary, you will have to move. Weigh your options, if location is not a barrier, a wider range of openings are possible for you. If you are wedded to a specific area, you may have to settle for something less than you had before. If you are over 50, you may have to accept at least a 20% reduction in pay. If you are willing to volunteer, other opportunities can appear, if you take on a similar function to your former career, you are keeping your skills fresh and you will be noticed by others who may be in a position to help you.
Finally, don’t despair. Believe in yourself. That company you just left didn’t hire you because you were a loser; they saw your talent, ability, education, and work ethic. For whatever reason, you were no longer the “right fit”. (The usual excuse). Make it your business to “fit right in” at your next job. There are no guarantees, but if you make some of the right moves, and are willing to be flexible, you will be in the land of employed people, no longer a corporate refugee.