Despite the fact that we haven’t experienced a record blizzard in 37 years, rarely can I travel out of state without someone giving me that look when I disclose the location of my beloved hometown. You know what I’m talking about – the wide-eyed expression that says, “Why in the hell would you choose to live in the frigid tundra of Buffalo, NY?” I admit, Buffalo and I are on the outs after last week’s whopping storm claimed 13 lives. As a resident of the Northtowns, I got lucky since the snow barely covered my front lawn, but my heart goes out to the brave souls who suffered through the eye of the storm.
We’re a proud folk with a thick-skinned nature we love to flaunt, like our ability to wear shorts in 40-degree weather or brave a Bills game with only the company of good old Bud Light to keep us warm. We often poke fun at our New England neighbors who bust out their North Face jackets and UGG boots as soon as the temperature drops below 60. So you’d think we’d be prepared for a blizzard at a moment’s notice. But as I watched the devastation on the news, I was struck by the fact that although we were warned of heavy snowfall, we weren’t ready for the scope and magnitude of what seemed like an apocalyptic event sanctioned by God Himself. As I scrolled through online photos of people wading through chest-deep snow in search of food, gas, and other survival essentials, it was clear that many of us weren’t adequately prepared.
Taking such high stakes with our lives made me wonder how many people are making the same grave mistake with their careers. Are people truly prepared for a career disaster? From where I sit, most aren’t. Today, we live in a volatile employment world, one that’s unforgiving to status-quo workers who spend decades in the same role. I began thinking about my candidates who were struggling with a separation from their most recent employer. Some even knew it was coming – they noticed fiscal problems the company was experiencing but chose to ignore the warning signs in favor of a comfortably numb state of denial.
Without having a disaster plan in place – or any backup plan for that matter – these people, crippled by job loss, are so overwhelmed by their own emotions that their logical brainpower goes dark. And if they manage to secure a new, they’re back in the same boat, blinded by that false sense of security. So instead of gambling with your career, build an insurance plan, one that will protect your livelihood and leverage your background.
Building an Exit Plan
Get educated. With smart phones getting smarter, knowledge is quite literally at your fingertips. Catalogue all the skills and experiences you’ve amassed throughout your professional career. Research jobs in your preferred industry and field – not because you’re looking, but because you need to get your head out of the snow. Visit Indeed.com and find out what the requirements are for your desired role. Does your list of qualifications match up? Are you missing any critical factors?
Keep your skills sharp. Can you apply for an online or local course to boost your resume? Believe it or not, of my clients who offer money to their employees for training opportunities, less than 20 percent of their staff members take advantage of it. If your company doesn’t have a formal skills development program in place, just ask your employer if they’d contribute to your continued education anyways. You’d be surprised how many are willing to help, especially if it enhances your ability to do your job more effectively. Best of all, it strengthens your background big time.
Consider transitioning. If you’re not seeing a lot of jobs available, consider transitioning to an in-demand industry that makes sense to your demographic. Chances are, you’ve developed a plethora of valuable soft skills and transferable hard skills that you can apply elsewhere. Don’t be bogged down by traditional job-search beliefs. Job creation is at an all-time high. Tap into your innovative self and explore your options.
Have you thought about working for yourself? I’ve coached many people who’ve had success setting up a variety of niche businesses on the side while working their current gigs. And once their businesses are up and running and generating enough revenue, they leave their employers for the glorified be-your-own-boss lifestyle. It may not turn into a national conglomerate, but it could be a great work-from-home setup with huge potential. We live in a time where small basement startups are becoming the new norm.
Develop a solid brand. Once you’ve decided where you’re career is going, it’s time to dust off your resume. My recruiting team calls most resumes they see “obituaries” because they catalogue past work experiences without giving any indication about their future plans. Don’t make that mistake! Also, be sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, optimized, and active. Employers not only want to know that you have a career direction in mind, but also that you’ve kept up with our tech-savvy society. Lastly, follow recruiters and thought leaders in your field on Twitter. Remember a strong defense builds a strong offense.