Sections Supplements

Prepare for the Unknown

Finding a Future in Change

David prided himself on his diligent performance, attention to detail, faithfully relocating wherever he was needed in his 20-year career. David believed his company valued his efforts — until the merger. David came close to losing his job at 50 years of age. In the last corporate downsizing episode, David’s family security was threatened — not just financially, but personal esteem plummeted. More disturbingly, he didn’t understand why he was in jeopardy in the first place.

A company is forced to make changes on a yearly basis. Sometimes it means merging with another company, sometimes it means changing the record-keeping methods. Whatever the changes being made, it is going to have an impact on the company’s employees. Either they can adapt to the new way of doing things or face the prospect of looking for a new job.

David’s corporate changes included a move to more technology-oriented relationships instead of the face-to-face ones he had cultivated over the past 20 years. The corporate focus centered on gaining new customers rather than nurturing the existing ones.

Rationally, David knew that the directives would enhance rather than compromise his effectiveness in customer service. But he, like most people, feared change. Over the years, he had developed and maintained a bond of face-to-face trust and friendship with his clients. He worked his territory with self-control and diligence. David developed a sense of daily freedom. He perceived the change as stifling his independence by trapping him in an office from nine to five.

The key to surviving such corporate changes is being able to adapt and include them in your day-to-day operations. Otherwise, you will find yourself like David, realizing that your position with the company could be in jeopardy.

How does a person prepare for a complete culture change and reorientation of assets and desired skill levels? What was once safe becomes a loaded weapon, sited upon economic well-being.

Frequently, we read about companies downsizing and press releases that emphasize the importance of corporate balance and profitability. The trouble is that the largest cash savings is only possible through the reduction of human capital, facilities, and automation.

It’s the gut wrenching realization we get when we learn we’re expendable.

The lack of control over situations like this creates fodder for many sleepless nights as you worry over your children’s college funds, retirement funds, or just paying the monthly bills. You discover multitudes of ways to deal with the stress, from plummeting into self-despair, anger, anxiety, resentment, relief, or excitement about the unexpected prospect of building a new, exhilarating career.

So rather than focusing on ways to self-destruct, let’s lay down the groundwork to plan for future career opportunities.

6 Ways To Carve Out A Future

1. Attitude
Eliminate negative thoughts regarding your company’s shortcomings. Instead, focus on becoming a lynchpin of positive energy and teamwork. Bring concerns or issues to management’s attention succinctly and without condemnation. Provide solutions. Avoid placing your superiors in a defensive stance. People tend to push back when they are cornered.

2. Delay Gratification and Reduce Debt
The significance of the debt Americans accumulates is staggering. Debt eliminates options. It’s close to impossible to feel any manner of security when financial liabilities outweigh income (living from pay check to pay check). Loss of income becomes less devastating when you minimize debt — you create room to react responsibly to unforeseen circumstances.
Establish a workable financial plan now and begin by creating an emergency resource fund. Try to ignore purchases that are not essential until you have reached your goal.

3. Education
Use every opportunity to attend intriguing courses as well as those that provide specific job training for your current position. Consider concentrating on those topics that could develop into careers that would allow you to earn an income in an area you enjoy.

4. Update Your Resume Annually
Critically review your performance and achievements by writing them down formally in a resume. Outline your career objectives and evaluate whether your present situation fulfills those ideals. Early assessment of your evolution over the last year may determine a new career direction or alert you to an ‘at risk’ current position.

5. Network
Get out and establish meaningful relationships with people in your industry or the field of your choice. In addition, set up informational interviews with businesses that interest you. Prepare for a planned career move either within your firm or to an outside company.

6. Focus On The Target
Chart the items that you consider important to you – your family, independence, career recognition or net worth? If drawn in three or four different directions, this can be emotionally destructive and reflect in your performance and overall health. Clearly determine your top three priorities and plan accordingly.
Next time when you want to react in a position of turmoil, ask yourself, ‘Can I afford the consequences?’ This question is powerful in its simplicity. Work through your response in a manner that ensures that you stay on track with your true-life plan.

Corporate America doesn’t owe you a career or a living. So what are you going to do to plan for your future security?

Karel Murray, author of “Straight Talk: Getting off the Curb,” is an accomplished national speaker, motivational humorist, and trainer. She specializes in topics concerning ethics, motivation, accountability and sales training;[email protected].