Now, I’m not trying to get all gloom-and-doom on you, but in this economic climate there’s a very real possibility that things can shift for everyone on a dime. And, with new unemployment regulations going into effect, many people who were feeling secure in their benefits may soon be out of a paycheck.
I call these shifts “career tsunamis” because they’re upheavals: sudden, unexpected, and usually life-changing. Therefore, it’s important to have a solid plan in place, a “life-raft” you can rely on if things get a little crazy.
A tsunami doesn’t just have to mean a layoff or a company closing. You could experience a personal wave when, waking up in bed one morning, you realize that you’re not at all in love with your career. You might wonder how you got here, and what wrong turns steered you away from the goals you used to cherish. Or, you might realize that, although you feel that you’re on the right path, you haven’t taken a forward step in five years.
Often, we resist change until something forces it on us, or until the internal pressure builds up so high that we become the tsunami. Instead of waiting for something to give, try making your plans now. A little preparation can go a long way, even in the toughest circumstances.
Here’s how you can go about planning for those unexpected shifts.
• Take 20 minutes to plan. Where do you want to be in a year? In 5 years? What steps can you take to ensure that your dreams stay on course even in the event of a career tsunami? Do you need more education? A larger network? Start working on the supporting details now, so you’re ready to move forward when the time comes.
• Take 10 minutes to dream. If your circumstances were to change, what would you do? What course would you take? I once knew a man who lost his job after 30 years at the same manufacturing plant. Instead of panicking, this 55-year old decided to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a barber.
• Plug the holes. If you know there are areas of your life that could use some “tightening up”—like extraneous spending, poor use of time, etc.—start working on them now. Better to fix a leaky boat on the beach than to try to do it while you’re bailing out water.
• Save, save, save. A well-padded savings account can mean the difference between a tropical squall and a hurricane. Even if it’s only $25 or $50 a week, put something away “for a rainy day,” so you’re not totally reliant on government benefits in the event of a layoff.
• Keep your network warm. Keep up with your contacts now, rather than waiting until you’re in a state of panic.
Steven Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Begin with the end in mind.” If you’re building a house, you have to have the end result solidly in mind before you pour the foundation. Same goes for your career. If your planning is solid, and your support system is well-maintained, even the biggest waves won’t be able to sink your boat.