|The new millennium has brought fresh meaning to the ancient Chinese
expression "May you live in interesting times." Depending on whose numbers
you like—and there seem to be no shortage to pick from—we have just escaped
the classic definition of a recession by posting .07-percent growth in
the second quarter, thereby avoiding 2 consecutive quarters of negative
growth. To say we are not out of the woods yet would be an understatement
equivalent to suggesting that California has solved its energy crisis.
Ponder the following facts:
So the thunderheads appear to be still on the horizon, and as Yogi Berra
once said, "It gets late early out there."
Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas tells
us that since 1993 there have been only 6 months during which job cuts
exceeded 100,000 in the U.S. Four of those have occurred since December
2000 and I'm certain that when these figures are updated for June and July,
the company's estimate for the year will be close to a staggering 1 million
Silicon Valley Business, Inc. states that 406,806 jobs disappeared nationwide
in the first quarter of this year. This compares to approximately 650,000
jobs lost nationwide in all of 2000.
According to several surveys of hiring managers, the majority now believes
that the economic downturn will end within 12 months (28 percent) or in
more than 1 year (23 percent).
35,000 resumes are posted daily to Monster.com.
Don't Be Clueless in Seattle
Risk assessment needs to take place at both the macro (think company,
industry, and competitive landscape) and micro (that's you and your department)
levels. Corporate restructuring, mergers, and acquisitions can create a
sea change in your otherwise calm world with the force of a tsunami. Some
early signs to watch for are the following:
Of course, not all signs of a total collapse are as self-evident. And as
we all learned during the go-go years of the dot-com economy (19951999),
even turkeys can fly in a strong wind. But if we assume that we can read
the tea leaves as well as most, it's now time to take a dispassionate look
at our own vulnerability by asking ourselves the following questions:
Senior management spends much more time in meetings with little information
forthcoming in terms of purpose/results.
Major functions in the company are outsourced, facilities are closed, and
inventory is reduced.
Middle management is turned down flat or grilled more closely when asking
for additional funding or staff.
Your company's stock price is plummeting, its debt rating has been downgraded,
Your boss no longer holds planning meetings dealing with any business issue
or project that has a 6-month or longer implementation horizon.
Company focus has shifted from competing in the marketplace to serious
Surprise! You have a new senior management team.
Do I add more value to my organization than most of my co-workers?
Do people consider me enterprising and entrepreneurial?
Is my department highly regarded and involved in mission-critical work?
It doesn't require the "sixth sense" to recognize deadwood.
Continuing on the movie theme, Jurassic Park III was a summer box-office
hit. How does my company treat fossils—also known as workers over 40? Are
they encouraged to grow and given the chance to achieve great things? Or
are they simply dismissed as the unspoken reason things are in such bad
shape and put on the road to extinction?
Do I work for a recognized leader in my company who can and will step up
to the plate for his or her people and projects?
Do I know what I contribute to my company? Take some time to figure it
Am I a go-to person for problem solving and objective advice?
Do I involve myself in continuous learning and skill upgrading? If my job
were currently an open requisition, would I get it?
Best of Times, Worst of Times
Maybe we should call it "A Tale of Two Economies." There's no doubt
that if there's such a thing as an emotional economy, that emotion right
now is one of anxiety. The good news is that job creation is still running
ahead of layoffs overall and the shortage of talent and leadership is still
a major problem for many companies. Another phenomenon of today's new economy
is that the stigma of "losing" your job (now just where did it go?) happens
daily to everyone. Been there, done that, or at a minimum have close friends
and family whom I actually know and respect who have been through this.
The job-hunting resources available today are unlike anything offered
during past economic downturns. A recent poll of job-seeking executives
found that 97 percent used the Internet to research potential employers.
And until fairly recently most job boards were the purview of techies and
entry-level job seekers.
So you've done a realistic assessment of your current situation. Now
what? Well, the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" is difficult to argue with.
And there's no doubt the best time to prepare for the worst is before it
Consider the following basic survival steps:
Reader feedback is always appreciated as are suggestions for topics you'd
like to see explored in future columns. Remember the old Yiddish proverb,
"If fortune calls, offer him a seat."
Yes, you really should have a current resume that you review at least every
6 months for clarity, focus, and content.
If change is imminent or upon your organization, try to get involved. Market
yourself and explain how you can contribute rather than waiting for something
Don't job hunt sequentially. Pursue multiple paths until you're clear about
what you want. Be honest and tell people that you're researching to find
a good fit for you and your skills.
Don't go after vacancies, go after any place and position that interests
Explore all points of entry to a company with personnel being the port
of last call.
Network, network, network! I know you've never heard this before and can't
wait to try. Networking really doesn't have to be manipulative or a contest
to see who can collect the most business cards at the latest pink slip
party. It means staying in touch with former colleagues and past bosses
and identifying people you like and respect. It's more about giving than
getting and thinking about whom you've helped in the past. Seventy-two
percent of upper-level jobs are filled through personal acquaintances or
introductions. Yes, this can include working through a recruiter.
Richard Ream, formerly with KRI Dialog, is a principal in RMC Associates.
His e-mail address is email@example.com.