Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Be prepared

with 4 comments

As you know, that’s the Boy Scouts marching song: Be prepared. So as through life you march along, take thought of what might go wrong. One thing, as my friend in Ohio pointed out, is that at some point you can expect to be laid off.

Being laid off is to some degree worse than being fired. If you’re fired, you usually know it’s coming, whether it’s awareness that you are not meeting the job requirements (for example, a sales person or sales manager who can’t make the number) or you and your boss are completely incompatible. But a layoff can hit you out of the blue.

There are signs, of course: lots of talk of a re-organization, and you are not hearing anything about how it’s going to work. Or being in a “special projects” unit that is vulnerable to trimming. But, generally, if you are doing a good job and feel a part of the company, the layoff can be a painful surprise.

So: Be prepared. That means having a reasonably liquid savings reserve equal to six months of take-home pay. That means of being networked with professional organizations and colleagues in other companies. That means taking steps to become visible outside your company: presentations at conferences, papers published in the trade press, friendships with movers and shakers in your occupational specialty, on-going professional education and training to keep your skills up to date.

The nice thing is that the preparations for being laid off not only make you a more valuable employee to your current company, they also give you more leverage in negotiating your salary. As Roger Fisher and William Ury point out their excellent book Getting to Yes (which I blogged about previously), negotiating strength comes from knowing precisely your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (your BATNA).

By knowing your BATNA, you know whether to accept an offer or not—i.e., whether the offer is better than your best alternative, or not so good as your best alternative. Moreover, you can work to improve your BATNA and thus get more negotiating strength. The steps suggested above do exactly that: by becoming more skilled and more visible and connected, your BATNA improves.

UPDATE: Good advice here, too.

UPDATE 2: Some excellent suggestions on how you might be able to attend conferences for free.

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2006 at 7:48 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

4 Responses

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  1. LeisureGuy — I was laid off for about six months. While my wife and I didn’t have the liquid savings, I did get 80 percent of my salary thanks to unemployment. Overall, it was a good experience for me, and it was the only time in the past 15 years that I had any time off with no work obligations.

    For me, networking was the key. I had an established network of colleagues, and I met with them after I was laid off. Before I left each meeting, I asked for three names of people whom I could call and meet with. Soon, my network expanded exponentially. I wasn’t calling for a job, per se, just a chance to sit down and talk and pick their brains.

    If nothing else, this exercise helped keep me busy doing something and kept me from worrying too much about my lack of employment. And now I have a broader network from which to draw ideas etc. in the future, whether I’m job hunting or not.

    Jeff

    13 September 2006 at 1:59 pm

  2. That was an excellent exercise. In fact, John Crystal wrote in his very good book on job hunting that the way to do it is to first decide where you’d like to live. Then go there are start talking to people in various companies specifically NOT about finding a job, but rather to gather information about the area and its economy and industrial base—questions like “What do you see as the future of this region? How does your company fit into that? How does the company fit into the region today?” and so on. He said that, if you are looking for a job, Human Resources will intercept you and set you down well-defined channels that really go no place but a filled-out application form, but if you’re specifically NOT looking for a job, HR doesn’t know what to do and you get to do your information interviews with the decision-makers and productive employees. Getting names of others to interview is a great idea, and you soon build up a picture of what’s happening in the region and what will happen so that you can effectively find a job. Crystal also said that in doing these sorts of interviews, especially as your questions get better, will often produce job offers, and you have to then decide whether to take the offer or continue to explore. His book is Where Do I Go From Here With My Life?. Worth a look, I think.

    LeisureGuy

    13 September 2006 at 2:13 pm

  3. I am so glad you mentioned networking. I also advise people to make sure that all of their contacts are not stored on the work computer, but to make sure they have a copy at home. Sometimes layoffs come very quickly,

    Mar

    9 September 2008 at 9:48 am

  4. Excellent point, Mar! You’re absolutely right. Recall the scene in Cameron Crowe’s movie Jerry Maguire in which Maguire (played by Tom Cruise) is fired while at lunch in a restaurant. He races back to his office to get his Rolodex of clients. In real life, he would be fired in a conference room by the president with the HR person present as a witness and to handle technical questions about severance (and probably with security on standby), and then he would be immediately escorted from the building: no getting the Rolodex.

    So you’re absolutely right: make sure in your current job that you will have access to important information by NOT keeping it on your office computer, but rather on one of the Web 2.0 sites so that you can access the information from ANY computer. Obviously, you should not do this with any proprietary data, but the contact information for your network of professional acquaintances is not proprietary, and you WILL need access to it. So keep that information in a secure on-line application.

    LeisureGuy

    9 September 2008 at 10:03 am


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