Let’s pretend you work for a large corporation and so far, so good: your organization has only done some restructuring and the “L” word (layoffs) hasn’t come up. But then you come in to work and your cubicle partner says her email isn’t functioning, and you respond that yours works just fine. She calls for support and finds out that the reason it doesn’t work is that she is on a severance list…she’s been laid off.
Word spreads like wildfire, the press gets wind of it and finally your employer announces the layoff of hundreds of people…long after the volcanic ash has coated everyone in the workplace. So, you’re one of the “survivors” who now has 2.5 jobs and whose morale is in the basement. You’re so very aware that “it could have been you” that you can barely breathe, let alone function; your emotional brain is in high gear; your fear and anxiety are probably running the show, even though you have no facts about your own position. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, your rational brain takes over:”calm down and breathe. Let’s think about this. Let’s not be hasty.” The sooner your rational brain kicks in, the sooner you can take an honest look at your situation and make some decisions.
When it does, your only sure bet involves the 3 R’s of Career Stability: Responsibility, Resilience and Self-Reliance. When you take it upon yourself to practice the behaviors of each, you expand your work/career options, develop the confidence to take authentic action steps, and determine how you can cultivate stability in an unstable world.
Career responsibility means that you take it on. It’s similar to taking responsibility for your family: you take care of making sure they are well; or your house: you maintain it and improve it to keep its value high. So this is about taking care of your career, maintaining and improving it so it remains a valuable asset. You no longer wait for your manager or someone else to tell you what you need, what your strengths and weaknesses are, or what will make you more valuable. You do the due diligence to find this out for yourself…and then you act on what you find.
Taking Responsibility also includes:
*finding mentors in your organization who will help you increase your value;
*paying attention to the bigger picture: staying focused on your organization’s direction and growth areas;
*being more visible and valuable in your workplace than you may ever have been: look for projects and ways to make your work and your team’s work more, better, faster and visible;
*asking your manager, project leaders, peers and customers at every opportunity to give you suggestions for improvement.
In short, you no longer abdicate your career responsibility to your manager or the “the leadership” just because it’s always been that way. You ‘cowboy up’ and take the bull by the horns, learning how to devise your career plan and path. If not you, who?
Resilience means handling adversity that comes your way with strength and efficacy. Resiliency isn’t so much about what actually happens to you as to how you interpret what happens to you.
Your response to a workplace adversity is based upon how you see, or interpret, the situation. So, you could interpret your cubicle partner’s lay-off in several ways and how you interpret it determines your response. You can see it as a sign that you are next, and so your anxiety controls your work…your productivity bottoms out and your quality is non-existent. Or, you can see the lay-offs as a sign that your organization is in deep trouble, and you immediately intensify your efforts to find a more stable employer: you use work time to search Monster and Career Builder and to run additional copies of your resume. No productivity or quality from you with this response, either.
Yet another option: you choose to look at the lay-offs as a time when your customers need your best skills more than ever and you spend additional time and patience on every customer call. As a result, you show an increase in sales for the quarter. This response = good results for you and the company.
Career resilience is about bouncing back from work adversities, those affecting you directly or indirectly. You choose to be confident that you make a difference, and so you improve your service quality and productivity in the face of disappointments. You intentionally work at being more flexible and change-capable so your contributions matter.
Self-reliance is about taking care of your career and not expecting someone else to do so–regardless of how it’s always been. It means you don’t expect your manager to tell you what new skills or improvements you need; you assess your current skills and abilities and judge whether they are ‘top notch’ or need improvement. Talk to your best co-worker, the one whose job is like yours and who sets the bar for everyone. Ask that person to give you feedback on how your skills measure up. (Scary, I know.)
Or maybe you seek out a career advisor who can help you research the best practices and skills within your functional area. Connect with your Alumni Association to see if there are assessments available for alumni or to connect you with other alumni in your industry. When you know how you measure up (or don’t), take classes so your skills are cutting-edge. And, yes, pay for them yourself! You invest in your house, why not in you?
Now it’s your turn: tell me what you think and how you practice 1 or all 3 R’s of career stability and what benefits you have experienced from doing so. Your learning will help other readers…looking forward to hearing from you!
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