Published September 27, 2011
How to beat the jobs blues
Retrenchment is common in these challenging times but there are ways to stay on top of your job
By PAUL HENG
IT LOOKS like the business world is about to go through some challenging times again. And although the problems have been sparked by the debt crises in the West , Asia will not be spared.
What is worse is that China may see a slowdown in export demands, and for the first time in many years, it may experience single-digit (instead of double) growth. Businesses are going to be in for a rough ride, and corporate creatures like us will have to look out as companies will begin to look hard and serious on cost management issues. Rightly or wrongly, headcount and salary budgets are going to take a hit.
There could be job losses - as a matter of fact, companies are already restructuring and we are seeing signs of retrenchment planning.
If you have been managing your career, and working on maintaining your employability, you should be able to sleep easier at night. You should be fine even if the axe does fall on your job as you would know how to react and what to do to move on.
For those who have been complacent, or living under the false pretence that you are indispensable in your company, think again. When it comes to corporate restructuring, it is every man/woman for himself/herself - even your salaried boss' job is at risk - and this is regardless of whether you work in an MNC, SME or even a not-for-profit organisation.
Even those of us in the outplacement industry are not spared - especially when two firms come together. Like any other organisation, there can only be one CEO. As long as you are a holder of a salaried job you are at risk. Period.
Well, better late than never, as the saying goes. So, here are some basic pointers on how you can sleep better at night, instead of experiencing insomnia worrying about your employment status in the weeks ahead.
There is no use in worrying about things in life that you have no control over. We can't stop management from wanting to cut headcount, we can't ask them to reconsider because people need the income to put food on the table, etc.
So, the best thing is to put that issue aside. Take control over what you think about - and cast aside issues that you cannot influence.
Our mind 'controls' our entire being. We need to learn how to make better use of it - a positive mindset has a better chance of invoking a positive outcome.
Ask competitive sports people who have a knack of winning - they will tell you all about how they visualise themselves playing the winning shot, holding up the championship trophy, popping the champagne cork, etc.
A positive and confident mindset will steer you through stormy waters a lot more smoother.
Emotional versus rational
When changes happen, people tend to have two types of reactions. First, they may experience emotions - positive, neutral or negative.
How long one stays in this space varies drastically - some dwell too long in this space, become immobilised, and find it challenging or even impossible to move into the rational side of change management.
Move into the rational mindset right now. Ask yourself what you need to do in case you have to pack your personal belongings and say goodbye to your colleagues.
Here are some obvious ones. Update your two-page resume and get it ready for use. Polish your interview skills, and re-activate your contacts who may be able to assist you in your job search - actually, you should have been doing this on an ongoing basis.
It will be awkward to call up a contact and ask for help if you have not bothered to stay in touch for the past five years. Don't be surprised if they are less than forthcoming - you have only yourself to blame.
On networking, it is all about who knows you, not who you know. And getting to a point where you are known by others takes time and effort - your time and your effort.
Again, something that you ought to have been doing anyway. When tackling challenges like a job search, it is important and necessary that you remain alert, both mentally as well as physically.
One way to achieve this is to exercise regularly, eat wisely and have sufficient rest. As the saying goes, a healthy body, a healthy mind.
You will experience interview fatigue - you may meet three headhunters in one single day, and you will be asked fairly similar questions such as: 'Tell me more about what you do currently', 'What are your strengths?', 'Why are you looking for a change?', etc.
You have to repeat your answers, again and again. Fatigue will set in, and if this goes unchecked, you will not make a positive impression. Being healthy gives you the power to tackle such challenges better.
Take on additional responsibilities
Though no one is indispensable, you can put yourself into a 'slightly more indispensable' situation. One way you can do this is to curry favour with the folks who can take away your job - and I would not recommend this.
It may work once or twice, but in the long run, you will lose the respect of your colleagues. Instead, be proactive and look for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities - the more areas you are responsible for, the more indispensable you will be.
Besides, the learning and experience will be useful. So, the next time a colleague jumps ship, be among the first to volunteer to take over some of the responsibilities, even if it is temporary till a replacement is found.
Continuous learning and up-skilling
The world we live in requires us to continue to learn, re-learn, un-learn and up-skill. A decade or earlier, it would have been a nice thing to do. Today, it is a 'must'.
With so many changes bringing about so many challenges, we will be left in the dust if we do not upgrade our skills consciously. In my generation, it is unthinkable for jobs to 'disappear' but not so now. And this cuts across the entire spectrum - many offices these days do not have receptionists.
You have an appointment with someone, you arrive at the office premises, pick up the phone, dial the extension and someone comes out to open the door for you. You then walk to the pantry and get your own drink - no more tea ladies. What has happened to the training manager?
Well, they have been transformed to a new breed of professionals - organisation development (OD) leaders. It is not enough to just evaluate training needs, design training programmes and stand in front of the room to deliver the training.
You can further value add by understanding organisational culture, dynamics and values, and design interactive, experiential learning programmes to transform entire organisations.
Not good enough still - this new breed of professionals also need to take care of talent nurturing, succession planning, and coaching of their colleagues. If you were a training manager who was outplaced and who has not been able to find another related role, and wondered why - well, now you know.
I want to say something about technology here. The business world is now borderless and not time-sensitive, and technology has everything to do with it.
Most of you would be tech-savvy and need little telling that technology governs our daily lives and businesses.
There are two points I would like to put across here. One, you have to keep yourself continuously in tune with the many changes that happen ever so frequently. What you know today may be obsolete tomorrow.
Two, you have to have a business mindset, and be able to relate and understand how technology impacts business. Knowing how to master the latest tech-based gadget is very different from understanding how the technology behind the gadget can be applied to your business.
Of course, this is not everyone's cup of tea - and this is precisely why it is so useful if you are not among that group. Can you imagine how much value you can potentially bring to the business, and how valued a talent you will be? Get it?
The writer is founder/executive coach at NeXT Corporate Coaching Services