The author of the national bestseller JobSmarts for TwentySomethings, Bradley Richardson is one of America’s top career experts. But he also knows what it is like to experience a career setback. When an entrepreneurial effort failed and he was forced to become a job seeker himself, Richardson discovered firsthand the emotional, social, and financial stress that comes with losing a job. In Career Comeback, Richardson shares his years of expertise along with the hard lessons he learned in the trenches to give readers a realistic action plan for taking control of their careers—and their lives.
With empathy and humor, Richardson takes readers step by step through the challenging process of breathing life back into a languishing livelihood. Inside, readers will get indispensable, nuts-and-bolts advice on how to:
•Find solid ground
•Identify where things went wrong
•Establish a support system and stay energized
•Discover what matters most
•Find a new job that’s even better than the last
•Get in stride and stay on track
Job security is a thing of the past, but with Career Comeback readers learn how to rediscover their personal best.
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|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When Your Back
Is Against the Wall
The Boy Scouts Have a Point: Be Prepared
Those trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent Boy Scouts have the right idea. Their motto is "Be prepared," and you would be wise to make it your motto too, at least where your career is concerned.
It has been said that luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. When you are prepared, you will have more choices, and more influence and control over what happens to you. You still may not be able to control certain outcomes, but by knowing what to look for you can at least be prepared when the worst does occur.
People plan for their retirement, they plan for their vacation, they plan what they will do this weekend, they even plan for their estate after they die. But the sad fact is that people simply don't adequately plan for losing their job or hitting a dead end.
If you haven't planned for a career setback, don't be embarrassed. People don't plan for it for the same reason they find the idea of a prenuptial agreement sickening. They feel as though they are admitting failure before they get started.
You anticipate success. But it is like when you board an airplane. The pilot and crew certainly don't expect to crash, but they still show you where the exits are and let you know that your seat can be used as a flotation device.
You may not have any warning before a bad situation occurs. You may be caught totally off guard or in a situation where you have to leave quickly. What is stopping you from being prepared? Is it hubris, arrogance, laziness, fear? "Oh, this can't happen to me." "I'll be safe." "I know lots of people." "Maybe things will change." And then there's the greatest lie we tell ourselves: "They need me." If you are still working, here are a few steps that you can take to prepare yourself now in the event you need to make (or are asked to make) a dash for the door.
Back Up Everything . . . I Mean Everything
If you learn one thing from this section, it is this: BACK UP EVERYTHING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU! Back it up and keep a copy offsite at home, in a safe deposit box, anywhere other than your office.
In the best-case scenario you might have a few minutes to retrieve your files. But don't count on it. You may be shown the door and have your things mailed to you later. There are no second chances to come back. You won't have time to go through files, forward or retrieve e-mail, and make copies. Files may be blown away from your computer.
If it is a layoff or firing situation, a company will likely shut down your network access and change your password while you are tucked away in a conference room learning about your fate. Companies assume that you might be a little hot under the collar since you were just let go, so they are reluctant to let you back on to the network or near a computer for fear that you might want to retaliate by sabotaging equipment, files, or information. You will also likely have your e-mail cut off immediately so you don't send a flaming message to everyone in the company or to your clients.
Respect what is proprietary and confidential to the company. But otherwise make copies or backups right now of any projects, letters, referrals, numbers, figures, and statistics you might need. Copy lists or directories that you think may help you later in a job search. Copy your personnel files and performance appraisals and reviews.
In the best of times, make sure to back up things at least once a month. When things are shaky, you should back up every week.
Make a Duplicate of Your Rolodex and Contacts
Careers are made on skills and contacts. Some would argue that depending on your profession, contacts are more important. Having access to those names, numbers, addresses, and vital data is critical not only to business, but to finding another job.
Make it a point to make a backup of all your contacts, databases, and important lists. This includes client and contact names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. Keep both a hard copy and a copy on a remote server, website, or disk.
Update Your Resume--Now
After backing up your information and contacts, this is the most important thing you can do to prepare. The last thing you want to do is to waste time trying to craft the perfect resume when you are stressed out and under pressure and you need to get something to an employer. It's like filling up the car with gas before a trip. When you are cruising down the highway, late for a meeting, you don't want to stop at the side of the road to fill up. Get it done now and forget about it.
Establish a Generic Personal E-mail Account
This is helpful not only to send your backup files to, but to use as a main contact for employers and job leads. Start using your new address for resumes and in all of your job search correspondence. Both Hotmail and Yahoo allow you to set up free e-mail accounts that can be accessed from any Internet browser.
Try to choose an e-mail address that is close to your name. Some people try to choose a name that reflects their profession, like SuperSalesman@xyz.com or Great Designer@xyz.com. I think it is cheesy, but it is certainly better than an e-mail address that reflects your personal habits or interests like Born2rock@xyz.com, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Create an Achievement File
Create a folder that includes a running list and samples of your achievements, kudos, and successes in your position. After a successful achievement, write a one- or two-paragraph synopsis of the project, as well as the specific results and what you learned or the skills you used to successfully complete it. Keep this at home.
When you need to update your resume or make a case for yourself (internally or in a job search), your achievement file gives you accurate and specific information so you don't have to rely on your spotty memory.
When the sky starts falling, you won't be in any mental condition to be reflective, so take a moment now to do a quick mental inventory of your career. Look at your recent accomplishments. What have you learned? How have you grown as a professional? What are you now qualified or equipped to do because of this experience? What is the likely next step if you were to leave? Could you easily go to a competitor? Do you want to stay in this field? What skills and experience can you transfer to other fields?
Renew Your Memberships and Subscriptions
Now might be a really good time to renew your subscriptions, association memberships, certifications, or anything that the company currently pays for that can help you professionally. This way they will remain active after you leave the company and you can still benefit.
Keep Up with Industry Contacts
These should include clients, people you have met at trade shows and through professional associations, even competitors. This doesn't have to be in-depth contact. It can be as simple as a phone call, voice mail, or even a "Hey, how are you?" e-mail. You want your name to be fresh on their minds in case they have an opportunity that might be a good fit for you, or so that if you need a favor during your job search they don't think, "Huh. Who is that? Oh yeah, I haven't heard from him in a year." Start priming the pump a little bit, by putting the word out that you "might be in the market soon," "are ready for a change," or "see the writing on the wall." Begin to raise your antenna for new opportunities.
Line Up Your Referrals, Letters, and Recommendations
It can be tough to locate people who are willing to give you a reference if they are scrambling to find jobs themselves. After a successful project ask a coworker, boss, or client if he or she would write a quick note for you. Strike while memories and positive feelings are hot. Tuck that note away for a rainy day. If you think that is too bold, at least identify peers, managers, and clients who you would like to have vouch for you at some point in the future and ask if they might serve as references for you sometime.
Start to Get Your Support System in Place
Just as you should begin to identify your referrals and contacts, you should give some thought to who you can lean on in hard times . . . should they occur. This can extend to emotional or spiritual support, advice and counsel, or even financial support should it come to that. (For ideas on how to land financial support while you still have a job, be sure to check out "Get Cash and Credit While You Can" on page 52.) Give a heads-up to the people who can help you to bridge a gap in case you need it. Tell a few of your confidants so that it doesn't come as a complete shock.
Visit Your Doctor and Get Your
Health Care Needs Taken Care of Pronto
If you were to ask several people who had been laid off or jobless for a period of time which was more important to them, salary or health insurance, you would likely have a pretty healthy debate on your hands. If you are in a shaky situation or are planning to make a move, get any medical needs, such as checkups, physicals, and prescriptions, taken care of now, while you still have health insurance and are not burdened by COBRA expenses.
If your company makes a layoff announcement or says that they might be cutting jobs in the future, act now. Do whatever it takes to prepare yourself, but act fast. Don't wait to see what happens, what the fallout is going to be, or if it will affect you. Do the things I've mentioned. If you survive it, great, you've prepared for nothing. But if it ever comes time for you to exit stage right, you are prepared.
A Storm on the Horizon
Have you ever been caught in a sudden rain shower or thunderstorm? If you are unprepared, you get soaked. It is as simple as that. Yet had you watched the news, read the forecast, or known what signs to look for in the sky, you would have been prepared. And while you couldn't have stopped the storm, you could have reacted accordingly.
The same is true in your career. You need to know some of the signs, a forecast so to speak, of whether a storm is about to hit your company, your industry, or you. You may not be able to stop it from happening, but if you know what to look for you can prepare so you aren't caught in a downpour.
Over the next few pages I'll help you identify the signs of a potential career setback.
Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get me.--Woody Allen
Signs That Your Career Is in Trouble . . .
or That You Are About to Get the Boot
I want to be very clear about one thing. These are not absolute signs of a professional apocalypse. Don't overreact, panic, or work yourself into a frenzy thinking that evil forces are conspiring to get rid of you just because your boss's door is closed, you weren't copied on a memo, or your budgets are suddenly cut. Sometimes it is just business as usual and has nothing to do with you. As Freud once said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
If one or two of these things occur, don't pack your bags and head for the exits yet. Be rational and keep things in perspective. You are looking for consistent and dramatic trends.
*Your boss, mentor, or champion leaves or is suddenly rendered powerless
*You fail to meet expectations or are a poor performer
*You are on progressive discipline (verbal or written warning)
*You find yourself increasingly out of the loop
*You are given a less desirable or lucrative territory
*Your compensation structure changes dramatically
*You are watched and micromanaged where you once had freedom
*You are given new, unattainable goals or targets
*You get a new boss who comes from the outside
*You are in an underperforming unit
*You are in a nonrevenue-producing or overstaffed unit
*You are in a remote office
*You have the least tenure or were the last one hired
*You have a significant salary
*You are no longer included in future plans or upcoming projects
*You are passed over for a promotion
*You fail to accept a position or relocation
*Your opinion is now worthless
*You are reassigned to a lower-profile project
*You are demoted
*You are given a "take it or leave it" or "no win" option
*Management makes your life a living hell
Your lives are in the hands of men who are no smarter than you or I, many of them incompetent boobs. I know this because I've worked alongside them, gone bowling with them, watched them pass me over for promotions time and time again . . . and I say, this stinks.
--Homer Simpson, of the television show The Simpsons
Make Yourself Bulletproof
It's only logical to think that working hard and being productive is enough to keep your job safe. It is great in theory, but the truth is, sometimes that is not enough. Or worse, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is no one is immune. It can happen at any time, regardless of your industry, job function, experience level, or competence. Still, here are a few things that you can do to improve the odds that the ax doesn't fall on you.
*Be visible--keep your name in front of people
*Make a case for your value--know what value you offer to the organization and, more important, know what the organization values
*Know how you are judged and what is valued--know and understand the criteria by which you are being judged
*Document your results
*Make your numbers, hit your goals, and justify your existence
*Let your boss know that you want to be there. Don't let there be any question about whether you "love" your job, and don't assume that your management knows
*Understand where the company is going--try to see the big picture
*Be on top of your game--now is not the time to show incompetence
*Be up on office politics
*Pick your projects wisely
*Maintain key relationships with clients. They can be great references if you ever need one, and they can even be great job leads
*Develop your network beyond your department and immediate boss