Weekend Read: How To Prepare To Lose Your Job

This isn’t meant to ruin your weekend; on the contrary, it’s a little food for thought. You likely have some mental bandwidth available between now and Sunday night- it’s never to early to consider the following graph:

The bottom line- if your job goes away, you’re likely looking at months on the hunt for the next one.

The average search time? 21 weeks or about five months. That’s actually an improvement from mid-2010, when the median unemployment stretch was at 25 weeks. But it’s still nearly three times what it was before the recession began and much higher than in previous tough job markets.

The most fragile futures? Over 40, mid-level managers- the old white guys. The median duration of unemployment for 20- to 24-year-olds was 16.3 weeks in December, compared with 31.4 weeks for 55- to 64-year-olds. The reality is,  one is immune from instant, brutal unemployment- a frightening scenario that keeps many of us awake at night.

There are currently about 13 million of us who are looking for work, and the unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent.

Recruiters and employment experts say that if you are currently working, and you are a full time employee with benefits, now is the time to look for other work.

It’s the oldest advice in the book- the best time to look for a new job is while you hold a current one. You can be more specific and focused in your search; you can say “no” to jobs that aren’t a great fit, and you have time to craft a strategy on what you are going to do next.

The way we work is transforming before our very eyes. We all know that guaranteed work with the gold watch at retirement is now a figment of our imaginations.  Since the first Reagan recession, with the exception of the boom Clinton years ( with a little help from George H.W. Bush’s late-term tax/economic tweaks), the middle class is facing a squeeze that feels like a giant vise, the 1% putting the screws to the rest of us.

Mitt Romney has been getting hammered by his Republican presidential rivals about his time at private equity group Bain Capital, about how he slashed jobs and cashed in on it.  All I can tell you about that is I once  worked for Bain Capital. Bain Capital signed my paychecks. Bain Capital and the vultures that work in this space are not friends of the worker. Many  are brutal, savage, heartless capitalists whose one and only interest is the predictable outcomes on their spreadsheets and their own bank accounts. I never have witnessed an enterprise who loves spreadsheets more than Bain Capital.

Industries have a shelf life. Some businesses deserve to go under. Some poorly managed enterprises can indeed be revived and streamlined. Some layoffs are indeed necessary to ensure the overall health of a company. I am no enemy of the free enterprise system, but the way America is conducting herself is getting us in deep, deep trouble. President McCain would have faced many of the same nightmares Barack Obama is currently living through. It’s the system; our educational priorities are out of whack- our tax code is in ruins, and the rich are getting much, much richer.

The way we work is changing.  Here’s the great news- we can stay a step ahead of the vultures by working smart, keeping our skills fresh, and anticipating change.

I met with a client this week who recently got sacked from his position at a financial services firm. He’s no kid- and he’s terrified.

I am testing reinvention strategies with this person. His approach will be quite  different than the anticipatory behaviors we who have jobs can employ.

Ask yourself some hard questions. Do you need that new car, or do you want it? Is this really the best time to take that vacation? Do you have 6 months of income stashed? Do you have 90 days of income put away?

Must you have that living room set right now?

Have you developed the skill of delayed gratification?  Save and pay cash for the new TV, instead of charging it?

Bringing one’s lifestyle in line with one’s actual income is a fantastic start. Next- get your head in the game. What do you really want to do? If you could do anything for a living, what would it be?

You can reinvent on the fly- quietly, stealthily, carefully. You can prepare for the change and be mentally prepared for the event, and what your action plan is going to be.

The possibility of losing your job at some point is now a reality. Think of it as great motivation, an opportunity to be seized, not a doomsday scenario.

Besides, you always wanted to be a ___________. Maybe it’s time to get started on your plan! I’m cheering you on.




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