I talked to a couple last week who described the stress and turmoil in their lives, from a round of layoffs occurring recently at his job and now talk of a second round. He has worked for one of the largest defense contractors for eight years during an era of growth – but now uncertainty reins under a new President and reductions in defense spending. The couple both echo what’s Industrial Engineering Book causing the almost debilitating stress – the fear of the unknown. “It’s a good job and I don’t want to walk away from it. Besides, in this job market, what else is out there?” says the stressed out husband. “Not knowing is almost worse than losing your job, at least then you know where you sit.” When I asked what (they) were doing about it, I got the response “worrying a lot.”
There isn’t a “silver-bullet” to maintaining employment in a tough job market. But one thing is for certain: doing nothing isn’t going to help. Frequently we are in a status quo mindset and accept most anything an organization puts forward. But just waiting for the ax to fall is one of the dumbest things you can do!
The overused buzzword, in business and self-help books of the last decade, proactivity, is the only answer experts seem to agree on. But what is being proactive really? It’s a state of mind that says I’m not going to accept the existing state of affairs just because that’s what I’ve been given – I’m going to take control, step-by-step, of my own destiny. I’m not going to let someone else’s decision, or indecision, add stress and disorder to my life. The first step is becoming more aware of what’s going on in my supervisor’s office. What’s her perception of me? Did I learn anything from my last performance review or just go through the motions? What have I accomplished vis-à-vis the other employees? Do others think of me as a go to person – someone they can count on to get the job done? What’s going on in other departments in the company, in the Becoming An Electrician At 40, or the economy in general? We have to study industry trends. In three years, will our products still be relevant or will we be outgunned by competition? If you work for a company or industry that is losing its pertinent position, begin immediately thinking about making a change to a new job – or even a completely different industry. Be rational though. If you quit your job you won’t have much staying power to search for a new one. Use your existing employer (and their paycheck) while you seek your new position. But don’t give your current employer a reason to put you on the next layoff list. Make sure you give maximum effort to your current company during this process. Make the change on your time frame not theirs.
Let’s look at the example of the couple I met last week. Unless you were living under a rock, you would have known that the democratic party, and President Obama in particular, won a landslide election with a platform of cutting defense spending to increase funding for social programs, like health and education. The election was almost a year ago. Minimally you should have been looking for a position within your company in a non-defense related area – and made that change, if available. You should have been analyzing your skills and what other industry might be a good fit for you. If you only do this once layoffs in your current industry occur, you will be pitted against hundreds or thousands of others for the few available jobs that may mesh with your (and their) skill set.
We tend to get very comfortable in our jobs and accept what the company dishes out until someone else makes decisions for us, such as giving you your walking papers. A proactive person continually networks to determine what career choices there are in the marketplace. They ask colleagues, relatives, and friends about their companies and positions. They actively research what’s going on in their company and industry, as well as potential new organizations. For publicly traded companies, there is much information available about both short and long term risks of doing business, as required by the SEC. Having this information gives you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions that will help ensure stable career choices. Evaluate your other skills and determine where else they might fit. Would an advanced degree or other schooling give your profession a boost? Job requirements are changing so rapidly that you may be falling behind unless you are continually educated and updated on new procedures and methods required in your field. You should take action immediately if you determine there are risks surfacing in your company or industry that could lead to job elimination.
Being proactive will not only keep your career on track but also channel the job-related stress in your life in a positive direction. Take charge of your own career and life – it’s much too important to leave in someone else’s hands!

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