Five ways to be better prepared for a job layoff

img_0024Of all the things I wanted to be considered an expert in, being unemployed wasn’t one of them.

Since my cut in mid-July and the subsequent collapse in the economy (of which state leaders and finance experts have blamed on me), I’ve been contacted by old friends and acquaintances who have aired their own concerns about possibly getting laid off. In the past month alone, two friends got the pink slip and unfortunately, I think there are more to come. Good people are losing their security every day and you could be next – happy holidays.

But maybe you’re bulletproof and maybe you don’t have to worry about losing your job. If that’s the case, it’s always good to review what’s going on with your professional life in the case that you do or are thinking about leaving your gig.

Here’s five suggestions I have based on my experiences, both pre and post layoff. Some of these you may be doing, some of these you may be doing not so well and worse, some of you might not be doing any of these.

1) Be better.

This may seem obvious, but I feel striving to be the best you can is something a lot of people don’t take to heart. Every time you walk in work, think of how you can do things better. What’s the last time you asked yourself about what you can personally improve on? We spend too much wasted time complaining about our current situations than actually doing something about it. Anything you can take on to diversify your job and make yourself indispensable is so important that I can’t elieve more people don’t push themselves to simply be better than their colleagues.

And this doesn’t just go for in work. How much time do you waste in a day? Are there courses you can take, accreditations you can acquire, people to meet? I’m not telling you to abandon your spouse, house and kids, but find an hour or two out of the day to focus on improving you. People wonder why I write/blog relentlessly and it’s simple: I’m building a brand and want to get as many boats in the water as possible.

I’ve been blessed in that my two major jobs after college gave me the opportunity to learn a multitude of skills, some of which I was asked to take on and learn more about. I’ve always liked the ‘jack of all trades’ tag and was always willing to learn, even if there were some slip-ups along the way. Even if you find yourself in my case and you still get cut, you’ll have that much more to put on the ol’ resume once you’re out there. Learn a lot and don’t be afraid to fail spectacularly along the way.

I want to be able to walk into any interview, any meeting, any pitch and simply know I’m the freakin’ best at whatever I’m being asked to do. It may sound cocky, but there’s too many average people out there. I don’t want to be one of them.

2) Resume.

When’s the last time you updated your resume? Yeesh…that long? Forget the age-old adage of once a year…try twice a year, three times a year, whatever it takes to make sure you’re ready at the drop of a hat. Let other trusted friends and colleagues review it for clarity and corrections. And how about this: ask your boss what they think.

Explain that you’re always striving to make sure things are current and that their feedback is important on your growing skill set. I did this once and it was a great experience. You’re not putting yourself on a plank by asking your boss for help, but rather adding some clarity and solidarity to your status. If you’re that worried about asking for help on your career, maybe you’re in the wrong spot.

Also, make sure your resume looks nice and flows well. Picture you’re the hiring person and you’re staring at 15 resumes on your desk. What will make yours stand out (and I’m not talking about scented purple paper either)? Keep the resume on one page as two pages is WAY too much these days. Short, concise and to the point, baby…unlike my blogs which run roughly about 32,000 words these days.

3) Get connected, stay connected – online AND off.

The internet isn’t going away, so why not become part of the communities that are out there to help? LinkedIn, for example, is a business-based social network that I’ve noticed people either a) use poorly, b) use spectacularly or c) don’t use at all. Essentially, it’s your own online resume and soapbox for what you’re about and how you can help others. If you’re not familiar, think Facebook/Myspace but on a business level without all the apps, games and distractions.

Since I’ve been back in Maine, I feel like I’m surrounded by good people but those that are scared or dismissive of the technology available to them. The ‘net was meant for more than Sudoku or email. Use it and ask others questions about what they use. I don’t care who you are – you can find a use for LinkedIn, Twitter and others. Network, network, network!

There are plenty of success stories of people that created a presence out of themselves online and now have more work and opportunity than you can imagine. It takes some effort, but ANYONE can do it. Whatever you’re doing, become the go-to source on that information and who knows…you may get that cherry known as ‘consultant’ sooner than you think. I’m working on it myself.

4) Indeed.com.

This is a spidering site I use that crawls the ‘net and collects all the available jobs it can find within whatever criteria you establish. Instead of skimming through and bookmarking several sites, just use this one, complete with email alerts every day based on the guidelines you set up. Don’t be inefficient with your job search…it’ll leave you time to do the rest of the things I’ve outlined.

One note: it doesn’t search Flash or text trapped in images. I’ve been checking out a lot of ad agency web sites recently and some of them have jobs trapped in images. Too bad…they’re making people work too hard and are probably missing out on some talent.

5) Don’t be scared to ask people for help.

Big shock: I’ve been using Facebook a lot lately. One of the features I’ve tried to use to my advantage is the ‘What are you doing’ field. Whether it’s asking if people know anyone at a company or saying I’m still looking for work, I have close to 300 people that might have a lead or an in. I’ve done the same with other forms of communication and will continue to ask until I get what I’m looking for. These are my friends and professional colleagues and are people like me. Even if they don’t have something right now, they might later. Being unemployed isn’t fun, so why not ask your most trusted connections if they can help you? I’d do the same for them.

As I’ve written before, this whole situation has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Would I have swooped up another gig right away if I had done the above? Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly wouldn’t have hurt the process and if my experience can help others, all the better.

So the next time you’re sitting around with nothing to do, ask yourself how you’d be ready if you lost your job tomorrow. Over 1 million people have got the axe so far this year…better you’re prepared than them.

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