When job security is uncertain, one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety (besides potential job loss) is the prospect of beginning a job search. If you’ve been with the same company for a long time, haven’t looked for a job in years or landed previous roles by reputation or recommendation (i.e., without looking), you may feel even more overwhelmed about where or how to start the job search process.
Here are a few steps to take now -- before the pressures of job loss -- to be prepared in case a job search becomes a reality.
While you should always maintain a current and complete profile, if you’re like most people who haven’t reviewed their content in quite a while, refreshing key sections is critical.
At minimum, update your headshot, headline and summary. Ensure these sections reflect who you are today and where you want to go in your career. Create a strong impression that highlights the expertise, background and key assets you offer to prospective employers.
With an updated resume, you’re ready and able to pursue interesting leads and can’t-miss opportunities that may arise. If it’s been a long time since you last updated your resume, it’s better to create a new one because the way you described yourself back then likely doesn’t communicate your strengths, results and level of responsibility now.
If you haven’t attended a virtual or in-person networking event in a while, or have only gone to events in your immediate circle, remember that networking gets easier the more you do it. Find a colleague or friend to join you the first few times if you’re hesitant. Your mission is to go to targeted events to meet new contacts and cultivate relationships, not identify people to give your resume to or ask about open positions. Waiting to meet new people until you “need to” is too late. Start now so you have a stronger network in place when you need it.
A critical part of networking is how you introduce yourself. Think about what you’re going to say when meeting others — don’t wait until right before an event to start rehearsing it. Whether online or in-person, you control the message in making a first (and lasting) impression on others. You embody so much more than, “Hi, I’m Jane Smith, CFO of XYZ Company,” and you’ll network more confidently when you are prepared to say so.
It sounds simple, but make sure you have a few good outfits for networking and interviewing. Especially if you've been working from home for an extended period or work in a business casual setting, check your closet for a suit or dress that speaks to your professional level and fits well. If nothing fits the bill (or if everything is from the last time you interviewed 10+ years ago), buy something new that makes you feel great, which will automatically increase confidence.
Think about key people in your network whom you haven’t been in touch with recently (especially those who are influential, well-connected, knowledgeable, helpful etc.) and contact them. Reach out online (email, LinkedIn), over the phone and in person. Build visibility outside of your company and immediate network. Don’t limit who you reach out to (e.g., if you’re a CMO, don’t limit yourself to contacting fellow senior marketing executives) because you never know who people know, and others may lead to valuable introductions or information too. Skip mentioning the uncertainty of your job when initially reconnecting, however, as it can come across as off-putting and desperate.
Although it may seem too early to do this, if you know a job search is in your future, make a list of people who could serve as references for you when you find a job you really like and receive an offer. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch with those on your list, reach out and reconnect before asking them to serve as references. Whenever possible, consider people who know you in different capacities (e.g., boss, fellow board member, colleague).
When companies reorganize, eliminate redundancies or talk M&A, look for ways to reposition yourself internally if it’s a place where you’d like to stay — not because it’s the easy way out. Can you pivot your skillset and/or add value to other areas/departments? Can you move to a subsidiary or the parent company? Companies want to retain good talent and often prefer to hire internally; there’s no better reference than an employee’s proven record, reputation and institutional knowledge.
If you have an outdated severance agreement in place or know that you’ll receive a separation document once your departure is announced, start researching now for a good employment attorney. It’s essential that you know your rights and how to negotiate the best possible exit package.