In light of current economic conditions and their direct relation to financial markets, financial executives are facing increased difficulty in making prudent career decisions. Unfortunately, none of us have a crystal ball to refer to when considering a career move. However, we can use a common sense approach to overcome these economic challenges and implement a proactive planning and awareness career progression strategy.
In the event you find yourself affected by a downsizing or restructuring, it is important to remember you still have some options to consider. You don’t have to be statistic but you do have to take some initiative. Although being affected by a corporate downsizing or restructuring in not always the best scenario one can hope for, it is a current reality and must be dealt with correctly to optimize your situation. Taking your next position after a lay-off or termination is often a knee jerk reaction and can actually make matters worse if executed poorly. Therefore, it is imperative you accurately understand all your options and know when and how to proceed.
So, when should one start looking for another career opportunity? Before we react, it is important we can recognize the potential warning signs that indicate
instability as well as the likelihood of a corporate restructure or layoff.
Corporate defense mechanisms during an economic decline can be subtle and all too often misleading. Mundane budget cuts, new program delays, decrease in growth or expansion initiatives, and reductions in spending for new market development don’t necessarily mean the sky is falling. In retrospect however, they are often early warning signs of an impending sale or downsizing. Reductions in spending for employee recruiting and retention programs as well as insurance, retirement and other employee benefit reductions are good indicators of a brewing corporate restructuring. These are sometimes a precursor to a downsizing, merger, acquisition or dissolution. Often, the desired result is a decrease in necessary operating capital and hopefully an increase in profitability or at least the perception that the company is doing more with less. If the company can pull this off, it makes the company appear more attractive to prospective merger or acquisition suitors. Regardless of the fiscal strategy used, it is usually followed by a reduction in headcount as the company maneuvers to beef up its balance sheet and assumes a more defensive posture in a declining market.
Obviously, we can’t always assume our employer is preparing to restructure or reduce headcount just because it is implementing a new fiscal plan. If in fact, the company is positioning to be sold or merge, we can’t assume that a merger or acquisition will affect us negatively or even at all for that matter. It is always good practice however, to be aware of clues that indicate a major change in fiscal policy or an indication that something is brewing on the horizon. It is equally important not to over react and move too quickly, you could miss a potential promotion or severance package. Corporate restructuring can also be a career enhancing opportunity for the right individual.
When in doubt, play it safe but be proactive. Always plan ahead and be aware of how the market affects your company. â€œIt is always better to be ahead of the gameâ€. Worse case scenario, you end up more prepared, you are more aware of your options, and you are less likely to find yourself in a vulnerable position in the event your employment is compromised. Assuming you work for a public company, watch the stock closely for sharp declines, uncommon istributions or stock repurchase initiatives. These can also be indicators for a shake up or restructure. Remember, the company will always act in its own best interest. More often than not, the company will not necessarily share its long term strategy with its lieutenants especially if it has already decided to merge or sell. You must protect yourself and your career at all times and never assume you are irreplaceable. Be thorough and diligent in your research but be decisive.
If you are not sure it is the right time to begin considering new employment, remember it never hurts to explore potential career opportunities as a precautionary measure. This will mitigate the risk of not being prepared. Although this process can be taxing, it is important to keep your frustration in tact and never resign before you have firmly accepted another position. You are always more valuable to a potential employer when you are currently employed. Additionally, if you are unemployed, you lose valuable salary negotiating leverage when a new employer decides to make you an offer. This being said, it is equally important not take the first offer unless you have evaluated all your options and conclude there are no other significant opportunities available.
Once you have decided to begin interviewing, do not post your resume on public job boards. They are sometimes a good resource for potential opportunities, but sending your resume into the HR black hole can be a nightmare. You are always better off going directly to the decision maker. Furthermore, posting your resume on a public job board can be interpreted as an act of desperation. It is critical you are represented as a passive candidate that is selectively evaluating your options. You want to be looked at as more desirable than available. Posting your resume on a public job board can also be a risky venture, and potentially place you in an awkward position if discovered by your employer, co-worker or future employer.
Employing the services of a well established recruiting firm that knows your industry and is well connected is probably not a bad idea. When choosing professional representation, do your homework and select an ethical recruiter that clearly defines your working relationship, the strategy he will employ and how you will work together. Understand the recruiter’s expectations and ensure the recruiter understands yours. The key to a successful transition is your ability to evaluate multiple career opportunities. This process is really a matter of probability. The more opportunities you can explore, the more likely you will land a good position. Furthermore, your leverage to negotiate compensation is improved when you have more than one offer on the table. There is no better position to be, than when you have multiple job offers. This is where your recruiter earns his money.
Another good tool for uncovering potential career opportunities is networking. Industry conventions, workshops, seminars, tradeshows and conferences are some of your best resources for potential new employers in your sphere of influence and can pay big dividends. It is important however, that you be discrete and maintain a certain level of professionalism when asserting yourself at these venues. Be sure to choose carefully whom you confide in. Remember, no matter what the size of your industry, your sphere of influence can work for or against you, so use it wisely.
Although these are fundamental guidelines to consider when managing your career, they should provide a path to follow during a turbulent economy.
The three most important concepts for you to remember are:
1. Stay abreast of your company’s position in their respective market and how current financial and economic factors directly and indirectly impact your company’s ability to compete and be profitable.
2. Prepare and develop a career plan with a trusted advisor that incorporates multiple succession strategies including valuation of personal assets for prolonged unemployment, early retirement options, and other career plan objectives.
3. Know what, when, and how you will implement an aggressive career succession plan in the event you are affected by a career setback. Be proactive!
Just as a successful financial planner must always be aware of economic conditions while implementing a prudent strategy for managing and growing assets, you should always be aware of your company’s financial condition and strategic position in the marketplace while implementing your own career strategy. Remember, your career is only as good as your plan and no one can manage it better than you and your trusted advisor.