What-ifs are interesting to think about. Like, what if you arrived at your office today, and:
* There was a voicemail from a leading city recruiter offering you a dream job?
* Your spouse/partner calls with the news of an opportunity to relocate to another country?
* Or your company announces that it has been acquired?
These were some of the questions posed to a group of 100 human-resource professionals at a recent Calgary breakfast meeting.
“The idea is to bring these issues to the fore,” says presenter John Miller. “Are you prepared for these scenarios and ready to address them?”
Based in San Jose, Calif., Miller is a senior vice-president at DBM, a multinational HR firm with offices in 47 countries, including Calgary and Edmonton.
The presentation was targeted at the needs of HR professionals, but the questions and strategies Miller discussed easily parallel the requirements of most workers.
Whether people feel secure in their jobs, are shopping around, are on the verge of being let go, or have been downsized, it’s always smart to begin thinking ahead.
It sounds like common sense, but it’s not always practised.
“The problem for HR people is that they are often the ones on the frontlines taking care of everyone else’s needs when something like a merger or acquisition is happening,” says Miller. “They may not have time to think about their own priorities.”
The critical point is that people can develop strategies to take charge of their own careers, he says.
As part of the discussion, Miller related the findings of a 2001 survey of more than 500 HR professionals who were looking for work.
The majority, 75 per cent, had been “reorganized/downsized/mergered” out of their jobs, while only two per cent had been dispatched for performance reasons.
When these professionals did find work, inside or outside the HR field, 60 per cent found it through networking. The next best method was via search firms (10 per cent), advertisements (seven per cent) and the Internet (five per cent).
“There were no big revelations here,” says Miller. “Networking is what we teach our clients all the time.”
Beyond the statistics, the survey helped DBM better understand the realities of the profession and help fine-tune some key strategies to ensure what it calls “career resilience.”
Miller suggests all people take time from their busy routines to consider the “what-ifs.” First and foremost, DBM tells people to develop a thorough ideal work-preference profile.
What skills does the worker want to continue using? What kind of work culture (management style) do they favour? What are their income requirements? What is the quality and professionalism of employees in the organization to which they might apply?
The profile helps people define their goals, gather information, target their searches and identify their competitive advantage.
People also need to think about networking and assessing their success. While not everyone is comfortable with making contacts, it’s important to join associations and understand what is happening in the business community.
And be prepared to look at careers from a different point of view, says Miller.
“The career ladder doesn’t exist. Twenty years ago people were measured by the fact that each year or two they were promoted. That isn’t the way anymore.
“We prefer to talk about career lattice. People should be willing to take steps sideways and even step down to broaden skills and gain experience.”
As workers supplement their knowledge, they should refine their own understanding of their skills (and their transferability) and articulate their advantages.
In the DBM survey, 71 per cent of the professionals in job transition chose to remain in the HR field although 89 per cent switched industry roles. Sixteen per cent opted for self-employment.
The study also notes the realities of our aging workforce, where salaries dip and the job search lengthens for people over 50. (The average age of men in the survey was 47; women, age 39.)
While 16 per cent started their own business or offered consulting services, the number jumped to 26 per cent for individuals 50 and over.
Miller cautions that when people create a startup company, they’ll likely spend about 20 per cent of their time doing what they know, and about 80 per cent marketing themselves.
In addition, entrepreneurs encounter seven-day work weeks; are responsible for all business decisions and risks; forgo a regular paycheque and feedback; and are removed from an atmosphere of camaraderie and security found in the corporate world.
There are, indeed, plenty of issues to think about. Suppose your company is acquired and your job is on the chopping block, or you simply loathe the new company culture.
Do you have a plan? Are you ready for the what-ifs?