This is a guest post from Kevin Mercadante of Out of Your Rut. Kevin is also author of Lighten Your Load, an e-book focused on reducing living expenses while still maintaining a comfortable lifestyle.
If you lose your job, hear rumors of layoffs at your company, or pick up just about any other indication that you job may be in jeopardy, you’re gut reaction may be to launch a job search. While doing so makes sense, you should direct some of your efforts to other areas, as well. In fact, you may even want to do this if your job is “secure” (whatever that means nowadays).
The nature of employment is changing, and you need to adjust with those changes. Three areas which should be at the center of your efforts going forward are skills development, networking, and pursuing opportunities.
One disadvantage to having the same job for a long period of time is that your skill set can get rusty. The longer youâ€™re with one employer, the more likely you are to have skills that are of value to just that one company. If you lose your job, that custom skill set can become excess baggage.
Start by inventorying the skills you have, including those that have gotten a bit stale from lack of use, and work on getting yourself back up to speed with them. At a minimum, make sure that you know what you know.
It’s also important to add in new skills whenever possible. While we should all be doing this all the time, life sometimes gets in the way. In an economy such as the one weâ€™re now in, however, you need to make learning new skills a top priority.
If youâ€™re currently employed, try to arrange your schedule to create regular blocks of time for this sort of learning. If youâ€™re already unemployed (or under-employed), this effort is worthy of equal time alongside your job search efforts.
What kind of skills you need to develop will depend largely on what field you work in, or would like to enter in the near future. Some common skills include public speaking, HTML/web design, accounting, customer relations, general business software (Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), industry specific software, foreign languages, repairs, web marketing, and interviewing skills. Start by picking one or two, work to master them, and then add more over time.
Fortunately there are all kinds of how-to programs available on the web as well as at the bookstore. You can engage in self-study with a book, software system, or web download. All of these are relatively inexpensive, and you can do them on your own time. For more challenging skills, consider taking a class as a local community college. An alternative approach would be to work a part-time job that will allow you to hone your skills while youâ€™re getting paid.
Remember… You don’t necessarily have to be an expert — just having working knowledge in a particular area can shift the job selection process in your favor.
Most of us are pretty good at networking within our own field, but it pays to get outside your usual network. Being active in networks that aren’t directly related to your own field can give you access to new opportunities, especially since your skill set will be somewhat unique amongst your peers.
Fortunately, the internet has made networking in virtually any career or business area easier than ever. There are thousands of blogs and forums covering just about any industry, and a large number of these are very welcoming to outsiders. You should also consider joining local network groups and/or general business networks, as face-to-face networking can be even more effective than joining web groups.
When interacting with others, be prepared to share your story and let other know what youâ€™re looking for; in sales, this is called “asking for the order.” Just remember that networking works both ways. Be sure to offer support and relevant leads to others. After all, the more value you can offer, the more value you’ll receive.
Consider dropping the word “job” from your vocabulary, and replacing it with “opportunity.” After all, that’s what you’re really looking for.
What’s the difference? A job is typically a full-time, fully-benefited source of permanent employment that represents a clearly defined place on a company organizational chart. This version of employment is gradually disappearing, a trend that was developing even before the recession.
Nowadays, many employers are scaling back their employee benefits, including 401(k) plans and company paid health insurance. Many other employers have switched to the heavy use of contract employees. With traditional jobs disappearing, it’s to your advantage to seek opportunities whenever and wherever you might find them.
Be open to contract work, even if youâ€™ve never done it before. Likewise, consider part-time work, partnerships, affiliate arrangements, and temporary situations. None of those are jobs per se, but all provide you with an opportunity to earn income, learn new skills, and develop valuable new contacts.
You might also consider the possibility of balancing two or more opportunities. For example, a contract arrangement combined with a credible business venture might get you back to the level of pay you’ve had in the past, even though you haven’t been able to find an equivalent job in your field.