How Inertia Can Impact Your Income

I No Longer Work Here
Image by kiddharma via Flickr

Six months ago I received a call from Donna*, a former resume client. Two years ago, I had provided resume services to her company when they went through an acquisition and major reorganization. Donna had found work but was laid off again. Fearful of a tight job market and shrinking finances she had taken a job with a slight pay cut and was back in school working on her master’s degree. She called me wanting to update her resume, just in case. I walked her through the process which included discussing her next steps and aligning her resume to fit her goals. She was busy and kept putting it off until she gave up on it entirely. Last Friday, Donna was laid off with one final paycheck.

It was also six months ago that I spoke with Tom*. Tom’s company had been hard hit by the economy and he was not sure they would survive. The past year had been tough, with many layoffs, salary freezes and elimination of benefits such as company provided cell phones. Tom was in a senior position with specialized expertise. He was working longer hours but managed to survive round after round of layoffs. I advised him to immediately make time to plan his next move. We talked about job targeting, networking and developing a resume. He was busy with barely one day off per week and he put it off. Last Friday, he received notice that his job would be terminated in the next 2-3 months. His company “does not believe in severance” but offered a couple of days off for job search activity.

I encounter Donnas and Toms weekly; people who realize they need professional help, take the first step and then become complacent. Some even pay for services but will take months to complete the information needed to help them. These are all smart professionals who get so busy with their jobs that they do not make time to manage their career.

Donna and Tom’s lack of action is surprisingly common. I have found that less than 1% of people who seek me out, take immediate action and follow through. Of this 1% some have been laid off, and others have received notice or see the handwriting on the wall and take action. They focus on solving their problem and make time to get it done. This 1% gets employed faster in jobs of their choice. The same clarity and motivation that propels them to take action emerges in their job search.

You have a choice today. If you sense change in your company do not ignore the signs. Develop a plan and activate it. Meet with a financial advisor. Write down the list of things that you would want to negotiate in the event of a layoff. Research other companies and search your network for inside contacts. Inaction does not delay the inevitable. You may get laid off but it’s better to be prepared than forced to react after the crisis.

In tomorrow’s post we will examine how you can proactively manage your career.

*Name was changed to protect the privacy of the client

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  • Karen,

    This is an important warning — and one that can help many if they heed it. Today’s job market is tough, and it’s very easy to get so caught up in the daily grind that one neglects to look at the bigger picture and plan for various possible contingencies. Procrastination is simply too easy when one’s focus is entirely on one’s day-to-day work — especially when one is overworked, putting in long hours, extra days, etc. That makes it even easier to ignore the bigger picture.

    Dedication is a commendable virtue, but when a company decides that its interests would be better served by cutting staff, that dedication won’t keep a paycheck coming in. Every worker needs to exhibit a little dedication to his/her own professional security and personal well-being. And one great way to do that is to explore other options and be prepared to exercise them when needed.

    • Karen Swim

      Jeanne, I feel like a broken record but it happens again and again. Every person seems to think they are immune yet I see the other side and know they are not. In discussing it I a not at all trying to embarrass or spread bad news but I hope that as you said people will heed the warning. It is heartbreaking to watch people lose their income and be forced into crisis mode. Thank you so much for your insight and comment Jeanne!

  • Many are uncomfortable with change, so they simply refuse to think about it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent it from happening! I think it’s great that you’re sounding the alarm and helping people to see what could happen before it does! I don’t see that as spreading bad news at all, but rather as spreading the good news that they can take control of their circumstances and prepare for something better.

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