What If?

As the recent government shutdown fades into history, its lessons for the rest of us remain clear. Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of the shutdown, it delivered an important message. No one is safe, not even long-term government employees, from the sudden loss of a paycheck.

Are you ready? What would you do if your pay stopped tomorrow? In addition to a government shutdown, loss of paychecks could be caused by sudden bankruptcy, natural disaster, change of control with new owners, cost cutting, changing direction, a new boss or any of several other reasons.

Assume for a few minutes your paycheck stops. One of your first reactions will be “Uh oh, I shoulda done…”. Here are a couple of “shoulda dones” you should do. I’ll start with an easy one- from your excess disposable income, put aside in a safe, easily accessible account, 6 months’ worth of expenses and enough for medical insurance.

Update your resume every 3 to 6 months, ideally with a couple of new marketable skills and/or accomplishments. Every 3 months, whether you have anything to report or not, update your LinkedIn profile with some new buzz words that you identify from job postings for positions similar to yours. Keep a log of your accomplishments and results and build stories around them so you’re prepared for interviews.

Always refresh and build your network. Pick your 4 best references and meet with one per quarter so none of these contacts will be more than one year old. While you’re at this, use them as your own personal board of directors/career sounding board and be sure to do what you can to help them. Join and stay active in industry and professional associations. Consciously and diligently expand your personal and professional network- one breakfast or lunch per month. Become a networking hub. Always help job hunting connections you have, be proactive, reach out to them, make the time. Connect with executive search firms while you are still employed.

Your network and your skills and employability are equally important. If you don’t have a long-term learning plan, build one. You might consider the CEO test on MDL Partners’ consultant, John Decker’s, website at http://www.ceopyramid.com/ceotest as a template for skill building. If your job isn’t building new, current, marketable skills, you’ll have to do it yourself, on the outside, in your copious free time. Evaluate your current skills and consider what you could do to make money in an emergency as a consultant. Be as prepared as you possibly can.

So, the other shoe has dropped. Now what? Take a few months off and enjoy the expense fund you have saved. No, switch into active search mode immediately. It is impossible to tell how long the search will take. Immediately start looking for consulting opportunities, especially those that might turn permanent or expand your network, skills, or marketplace presence.

Send brief emails and texts to everyone.  You don’t have to get into why you’re looking, most people don’t care. But do get into what you’re looking to do in general and add a list of potential target companies. Follow up diligently and start a regimen of 3 to 5 networking meetings per week.

Since you’re reading this, you’re connected in some way to the MDL Partners network. Use what you have learned here and reconnect for the latest and best job search strategies and tap into our workshops and networking meetings.

Please take this advice to heart. You’ll be much more comfortable in knowing that you’re prepared for any eventuality.