Looking over your shoulder

Looking over your shoulder

“I sense a lot of nervousness, even from those who have secure jobs that pay well.” So said John Mauldin in his Thoughts from the Frontline on 14th November. “You can say that again,” we echoed. This uncertainty extends beyond the normal fear of bullying bosses. It embraces worries about companies’ performances (Volkswagen, Tesco, Rolls Royce). It addresses technological changes that take place daily (rapid advance of robots, cheque-less banking, advanced use of DNA discovery) and the knock-on effects of changes in the economic behaviour of the second-biggest economy in the world – China.

The response to such uncertainty can be sensible or stupid, thoughtful or mindless. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” – an amalgamation of two biblical sayings that were never meant to be put together – is an example of the stupid. If tomorrow we die let’s do something about it today that ensures we don’t.

That is especially important when applied to jobs. Rather like death, you never know when the sword will fall. So it is a good idea to prepare as soon as you can, far enough in advance to avoid a catastrophe. There are five steps to prepare for losing your job. All of them must be done well in advance. To start these steps when the letter arrives is too late and you will have condemned yourself to a lower-paid, less satisfying job than you could have had.

[1] Brush up your networks. We all talk about a network as though it was a single list, a kind of address book of people who will come to the rescue. It is no such thing and there are seven networks needed as basic to job hunting: [a] friends in useful places [b] acquaintances in useful places [c] people / companies you’d like to work for and who you have been tracking [d] contacts who can give you contacts [e] contacts who might be able to give you a job [f] head-hunters who can be useful if targeted properly [g] media who are well-disposed towards you. The lists overlap; you need a reasonably sophisticated way of keeping them.

[2] Tear up your CV. The CV or Resume is a very outdated concept. It has been replaced by tailor-made accounts of your achievements and career that are relevant to the person you are speaking or writing to. Review your achievements to see which of them are most relevant. You need the ‘meat’ of what you have done but the ‘sandwich’ you prepare for each contact will be different, to suit their particular needs.

[3] Update your skills. Even as you rejoice at passing your exams you are out of date. Don’t know which skills to concentrate on? Ask the professionals; we will tell you that the soft skills are most lacking but you must keep up with the hard skills, too. Prioritise and progress.

[4] Shape up your finances. When we ask people what emergency funds they have they seem puzzled, as though emergencies didn’t happen to them. Easily liquid funds amounting to at least nine months total living costs is a minimum to be able to access. If you are going to start a new business, quadruple the amount and add what is needed for investment. Show your calculations to someone you trust. You will always be over-optimistic.

[5] Appraise the field. This involves bringing yourself up to date about the ways in which it is possible to work – other than being a full-time employee. As jobs are inherently less secure, know what the alternatives are. Some of them provide better wages, more interesting work and less insecurity. None provides total security.

Plan sensibly for your next move and it will be a great success.