5 Ways to Prepare for a Possible Job Loss
Because there's no such thing as a permanent job
(This article appeared previously on AOLJobs.com.)
Have a “permanent job” do you? No, of course you don't. No one does these days.
Even if you are happy in your job, have a great relationship with your boss and co-workers, and feel very secure, don't assume this ideal situation will last forever. With luck, it will last for several years, but don't count on it as a permanent state.
Managers leave for better opportunities. Revenue tanks as clients take their business elsewhere or competition increases. Technology replaces work that skilled people performed. “Stuff happens.” (I know — I've been laid off myself. Twice.)
Your Layoff Self-Defense
“The best defense is a good offense,” according to a famous 19th century Prussian general. Good advice that people have applied to business, politics, relationships, and sports as well as warfare. Not surprisingly, smart people apply that advice to their careers, too.
So, face reality. Even “superstars” lose their jobs. Prepare that good offense as your self-defense. Take these five steps so you can bounce back quickly in case of a job loss. Ideally, you will be so well prepared that you never lose a day's pay, in case some terrible (and unforeseen) event blows away your current job.
Employers and recruiters relentlessly search LinkedIn and Google to find good job candidates. Since Google trusts LinkedIn, your LinkedIn profile is shown to those potential employers doing a Google search. So your LinkedIn profile is a key part of your online visibility and your layoff self-defense.
As long as your current employer doesn't have a policy forbidding you to use LinkedIn — some do, so be sure to check — spend as much time as you can creating and polishing your LinkedIn profile. And by “time” I mean hours, not minutes copying and pasting your resumé into your profile. LinkedIn has criteria for a complete profile (a.k.a. “All Star”), and having a complete profile makes you more visible in LinkedIn search results. Which is good — usually...
Many job seekers complain to me about how LinkedIn “isn't working” for them. But when I look at their profiles, the reason they weren't having great success on LinkedIn was obvious. Even a complete profile can be poorly done — sloppy, skimpy and ineffective.
Proofread, proofread, PROOFREAD! Then have a friend or family member proofread it, too. Remember this is a public example of the quality of your work! LinkedIn contains profiles for numerous “mangers” (vs. “managers”), members of the millitary (vs. military), profesionals (vs. professionals), etc. NOT good for credibility, and certainly not impressive demonstrations of your work product. I've seen MANY profiles describing the member as “detail-oriented.” But, the typos provide ample proof that “detail-oriented” is just one of, probably, many exaggerations used in the profile. End of credibility ...
Focus your profile on your future, using your past to show what you have accomplished.
3. Brag about yourself and your employers, shamelessly but factually. This is NOT the time to be modest or to embellish reality! Don't make up accomplishments. Untruths are too easy to uncover today. And don't bury what you do — and how well you do it — in big blocks of text, lists of generic duties and responsible-for items.
Your LinkedIn profile should be much more complete and interesting than your resumé. Highlight your accomplishments and successes. Yes, brag about yourself! LinkedIn is the best platform currently available for personal marketing (a great personal offense), so it is an essential element of your self defense.
Also brag about your employers on LinkedIn, in your profile and other LinkedIn visibility. Brag about all of them and especially your current employer. Making your employers look good makes you look good, too. Bask in that reflected glory! Plus, highlighting how wonderful they are makes your current employer more comfortable with your LinkedIn profile (yes, your employer will check it out, and, no, it won't be happy to see a “seeking new position as...” statement).
Your current employer and your former employers were excellent in some way. Make that clear. Maybe it was the size (Fortune 1,000 bank, most popular restaurant in your city, etc.), a well-known product or service, or filling a unique need. Perhaps it was founded by someone important or famous. Maybe it won some awards or had some patents, started a new field or became the largest producer of something. It's there — dig it out with Google if you must. If it is a publicly-held company, get the total annual sales out of the annual report (whether or not the company was profitable), total number of employees, total number of locations — something impressive.
As usual, if you can't say anything good, stick to the basic facts. But do your best to find something impressive about each of your employers.
4. Pay close attention to your most important keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases used to find qualified job candidates in searches through Google and LinkedIn, as well as resumé databases and employer applicant tracking systems. Don't make the mistake of assuming that you know which keywords employers are using to find people like you.
For example, assume that you have gone through the training, passed the exam, and earned the right to call yourself a Certified Project Management Professional. This long phrase is often shortened to “PMP certification” or “PMP Certified.” Not much difference in those terms, is there? They all refer to the same thing, so no significant difference, right? Wrong!
The most frequently used term in job postings is “PMP certification” followed by “certified Project Management Professional.” Least used is “PMP certified” and absolutely invisible is “certified PMP.” So, if you had earned the certification but used the term “certified PMP” in your LinkedIn profile or online resumé, you would not be included in the search results, except, possibly, at the very end (which could be hundreds or thousands of pages).
5. Become known in your profession. Raise your personal profile inside your profession, representing your employer as well as yourself. Join the appropriate professional organizations and attend local meetings, write articles for the newsletter, lead professional workshops or make whatever other contribution works for you. Be visible online in the LinkedIn Groups for your profession or industry, making intelligent observations and comments, linking to useful profession/industry news.
The advantages of layoff self-defense are that you will raise your personal visibility, building a good reputation for yourself as well as your employer. Then, if something happens to your job or your employer, you won't have to start from zero getting the message out to the world about what you can do and how well you do it. The “right people” will already know.
Susan P. Joyce is editor and chief writer at Job-hunt.org and and chief blogger at Workcoachcafe.com, websites devoted to helping job seekers find employment. She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management.