Many of us prepare for natural disasters by keeping things on hand such as candles, flashlights, some bottled water and maybe a couple of cans of tuna fish. Anyone who has been without these items during a blackout quickly learns the error of not making at least some effort at preparation.
Then why don’t more of us prepare for one of the most disastrous times that can hit a person? I’m talking specifically about the loss of a job.
When we’re laid off or fired, we often react only with our emotions, calling our moms to cry or complaining bitterly to our best friend while downing several martinis. And that’s about it. Maybe in a few days we get our resume together and search a couple of the big online job boards to check out the available positions. If we’re feeling particularly ambitious, maybe we send out some resumes to local companies.
And then we turn on Judge Judy and settle in on the couch to wait. And wait some more.
But as the weeks and months go by with nary a job in sight, we begin to feel more panicked. We look back with some regret that we didn’t do more to prepare for this moment. But what, exactly, should we have done?
We should have been prepared. Just like stocking the water bottles and the candles, we need to realize that when a job disaster strikes, we need a kit that contains:
• A current resume that has been proofed carefully and can be altered for specific employers.
• A current list of references, who you have been keeping in contact with to let them know your latest skills and abilities. When you lose your job, notify them immediately so that they’ll be prepped to receive calls about you, and to also let them know you’re looking for a work.
• Up-to-date phone numbers and e-mails of anyone you’ve worked with such as customers, vendors, co-workers and bosses. (If you’ve not kept these relationships alive, they’re going to do you about as much good as spoiled food during a power outage.)
• The confidence to let everyone know you’re looking for a job. Tell your kid’s soccer coach, the guy working next to you at the community garden or the woman sitting by you on an airplane that you’re looking for work. One of my friends sought a job for months before he finally mentioned it to the friend of a friend at dinner one night. That person had gotten him an interview with an employer within two days – and my friend got the new job within the week.
• Memberships in professional associations. If you don’t have at least a couple, you can still get them after disaster strikes. These memberships often have job boards, and getting to know others in your field will be invaluable in getting the jump on jobs that are about to open up, or are currently unadvertised.
• Activity in an alumni group. Attending the same school inspires a lot of loyalty, and alumnis often reach out to one another in the professional arena. Alumni groups also often offer job and career resources, and have vast networks that can really help your search.
• A support system. Having mentors in place will not only help you professionally, but personally. Look for people who are good listeners, self starters, have made positive decisions in their lives and are committed to helping others.
Of course, the key to this disaster kit is that you don’t wait until the lights have gone out before you start putting it together. Planning for it now will mean you give it careful thought and ensure it will be the most useful to you in your moment of need. The great thing is that by keeping it fresh and updated, you benefit your career now and in the future.