After 10 years as a consultant, I’ve learned a bit about transitions. The number one thing I can tell you is they are always easier if you embrace the change and plan for it.
An Exit Plan is a way out, generally in reference to some confined space, such as an airplane. But I am asking this question in relation to your job. Accept that it will absolutely change, either by choice or by force. I believe most of us would prefer this to happen by choice, so it behooves all of us to have an Exit Plan. We must acknowledge that the paradigm of work has changed. With jobs being eliminated on a daily basis and filled with temporary staff and salaries going down, it is nearly a certainty that at some point you will leave your current position. I hope it happens because you are promoted and receive a salary increase or because you decide to retire or because you have a super-successful side business that makes more than your full time role. However, in case it happens for one of those other reasons just named, consider preparing your exit plan.
Some will see this is negative or planning to be unemployed. I say forewarned is forearmed – stay ready so you don’t have to get ready! The most stressful part of being unemployed, next to loss of income, is not knowing what you will do next. Think of it this way… We know it rains sometimes unexpectedly, so we have an umbrella in the car, or in the desk at work. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared. It’s a smart thing to do!
So… How do we do this Exit Plan thing? Think about what you would do if you had a temporary loss of income tomorrow. I say temporary because be assured that if you choose to do so, you will eventually work again. The better prepared you are, the shorter the duration of unemployment will be. We also wanted to feel like a short period of time, too. Being prepared can do that for you. So here’s what you should do:
- Know the market. Look around on the job search sites for your skill set and see what’s up there. This your job still exist? If so, on skills requested the same ones you have now? If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’ or ‘maybe’, see my comments below under Have A Superior Skill Set.
- Set goals. Where do you want to be in five years? Three years? Six months? Sometimes we get so bogged down working and living, we forget to have goals. Goals give you something to look forward to, which makes you a happier person. Just be sure your goals are S. M. A. R. T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. What that means in a nutshell is make sure it’s something you can do, would like to do, can tell when it’s done and it’s on a schedule. If the only instrument you play is triangle, you’re probably not going to be a rock musician. If you have been pursuing a dream for 25 years without success, it’s time to accept that it’s a hobby, not a career.
- Have a superior skill set. There are two elements to a superior skill set – knowledge and experience. You can’t guarantee experience, but gaining knowledge is something completely within your control. Get educated. Before you start complaining about the high cost of education, realize that education comes in many forms. The goal is to get educated and get recognized for the education. Certificate programs are a great way to do this. They come at all levels, from expensive to bargains, from on-site college and technical school programs to low-to-no-cost online tutorials. Some lower-cost online courses off also offer certificates. Do get the certificate. It makes your knowledge official. And of course, there are books. Lastly, if you have the opportunity to be mentored, you can gain both valuable experience as well as a referral. If you get the referral posted to your LinkedIn profile, that’s the ultimate – give yourself a high-five!
- Network. The job market is HIGHLY competitive. If you can come into an interview as a connection, no matter how loose the connection is (a friend of a friend of someone’s cousin’s spouse) it is preferable than walking in cold with no connections at all. Have a great skill set and know someone who can refer you.
- Save, save, save. The more money you have available to use to live on, the, the less stressed you will be. That is important because job loss is one of the most stressful events in life. Stress can cause health problems, both large and small. Make sure you have money in a liquid asset, such as a checking, savings or money market account, that won’t cause negative tax repercussions if you spend it as would be with a 401k.
Good luck! I hope these suggestions have been helpful. Please post your questions and comments.