A few years ago, a good friend of mine gave me this piece of advice after she had been released from a position unexpectedly. Senior managers can be let go if they don’t share in the management philosophy leadership promotes or believe in the plans the company is implementing to grow. (Being fired isn’t only related to poor performance, which is something I’ve learned from working with candidates over the years. It can take one by surprise.)
But back to the advice. She told me, “The best thing you can do, Lisa, is pretend you were fired today. If you were, you would start to make a list of all the activities you would do to land your next job. Take that list, and while you are working, do one item a week to ensure your bases are always covered.” (Like this advice? Tweet it!)
She formulated this golden nugget of advice in hindsight. She thought she was secure with her firm since she was growing revenue, so she never went to lunch with people in her network. She didn’t have a resume ready or even loosely constructed. She wasn’t making calls to former colleagues or schoolmates in business to stay abreast of their progress. She was too busy working hard in her job.
She didn’t see that the direction of management was changing (and that she did not share in the philosophy of this new direction). And one day, she was let go. She was blindsided. She shared this piece of advice with me to ensure this didn’t happen to me. And I have shared it with countless people over the years to pay it forward.
So, Let’s Pretend You’re Fired Today
What would you do? Here are some things I would recommend you do to get yourself back in the saddle again (this list is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order):
1. Pull out your resume and ensure it’s updated and reflective of your achievements, not just a list of tasks. Be sure you have a cover letter that can support your resume.
2. Make sure everyone you work with at any level is connected to you on LinkedIn.
3. Get recommendations on LinkedIn where it makes sense.
4. Put your vendors, clients, prospects and other external corporate connections into LinkedIn to connect with them.
5. Devise a target list of companies where you would like to work based on industry, geography, discipline or benefits needed.
6. Shore up on certifications and necessary professional development requirements in your field.
7. Look up when conferences related to your profession are taking place and make plans to attend.
8. Join profession- / industry-related associations to network with like-minded individuals.
9. Brush up on interviewing skills through a course and/or with friends you trust to help you.
10. Make coffee / lunch appointments with friends, former colleagues and other professional connections to stay current on what’s going on in their lives, at their companies and in a global sense.
11. Help someone with their professional goals. Maybe introduce two people who can help each other. Get your former colleague into a company he’s been looking to gain as a client. Mentor a student who is looking to obtain their first job.
12. Get a massage. In other words, do something to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Now Take That List…
…and start doing it now while you are working. Don’t get overwhelmed; just put in your schedule one item per week to start.
Call a former colleague and meet them for breakfast. Arrange to meet someone from another department you haven’t seen in months for your 3 p.m. Starbucks run. Contact a local college for an interviewing tactics class.
Is there a college grad in your extended family or neighborhood who needs help finding a job? Call them and ask what you can do to help. Helping people makes you feel good, allows the person you’re helping get what they need, and they will remember you when/if you need help in the future. We must give to get.
“But I’m Already Not Working… What Do I Do?”
Let’s audit the list. How many of the items above are you doing? When was the last time you invested in yourself — professional conference attendance, skill certification or personal care? (You feel tired and spent, yes? So take care of yourself to have all your energies to focus on the job search.)
Have you created a target companies list? Are you marketing yourself using LinkedIn connections you know and those you do not know? Or are you just responding to job postings? You need to network and market yourself to land your next job; passive searching will not work in this economy.
Bottom Line Is This…
You don’t need to practice this concept perfectly. And you certainly don’t want to be so on top of networking for your next job that you lose your current job (unless you’re already not working).
The key is to build your network in a genuine manner by helping and giving at a time when you do not need it, so that if the worst happens and you are fired, it will already be in place — or at least started — so it can help you when you do need it.
Were you ever blindsided by being fired? Share your experiences in the comments!
This post originally appeared at Chameleon Resumes.