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Another Job Dies: You Were A Good Employee

Unemployment can happen, prepare.

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In this article from the Washington Post, a phrase jumped out at me.  The phrase is “…was a good employee.”

To me, those 4 words alone say many things.  I’ve been seeing phrases like this a lot because of the current economic climate, but here is what it means to me:

  • Obviously, the ex-employee was a good employee (or the employer was being cordial)
  • The ex-employee is no longer an employee
  • The ex-employee didn’t necessarily deserve to be let go
  • The company holds the ex-employee in relatively high esteem
  • The company is cutting decent employees which indicates that they’ve laid-off all of the identified dead weight, and now have to cut into their talent to make ends meet.
    • Slight Digression: This is indicative of really big problems.  Companies that cut talent now to meet current obligations will really hurt them in the long run.

After reading this article, don’t forget to check out our two-part series on finding a new job:

Avoiding This Phrase

How do you avoid being a great former employee?  What can you do to avoid being laid-off?  Unfortunately, the answer is as obvious as it seems: be an even better employee. You may have heard the term “productivity” in news reports.  You’ve probably even heard “increased productivity.”

If you want to picture what “increased productivity” actually means, think of an image of a bunch of terrified employees working as hard as possible, doing more work, and not getting paid extra.  As bad as it may sound, these people are avoiding the lay-off.  They are being better employees.

What is a “better” employee?

At the risk of over-simplifying, a better employee is an employee that maximizes productivity and lowers cost for the company.  If you can do the work of two people for the price of one, why would a company fire you?  If the company does fire you at this point, then there was nothing additional you could have done, that company is probably going down.

Try and make yourself as indispensable as possible. I will never say that an employee can be indispensable but you can come close.  Become a leader and be as knowledgeable as possible.   If your employer sees that a lot of others turn to you for answers, then you can be sure that your job is a lot safer.

That kind of productivity is unsustainable!

I know what I describe is unsustainable, but it’s necessary in the short run to make it through.  After the tough times, you shouldn’t be expected to continue a burn out pace, and if the company does expect that, you should seek a different job.  I concede that this pace is unsustainable, but be sure to not become too lax because you think you’re in the clear.

Like I said earlier, no employee is indispensable, but some can come close.  When push comes to shove, just about everyone is fair game for a firing.

It’s Not Worth The Effort

Everyone’s situation is different, and if you don’t think that your pay is worth the additional effort, then be sure to setup contingency plans.  Have a good idea of the job market around you, have an up-to-date resume, have emergency savings to tide you over until you land a new job.

Focus on your network, here are some key things to remember:

  • Refresh your contacts (this is very important)
    • This means that you should call or message some strategic people in your network.  They should be people who are well-connected and your first point of contact if you need a new job.  Call them just to say “hello” and see how they’re doing.  The purpose of this is to avoid looking like you only call this person when you need help.
  • Establish new contacts
  • Don’t brag about slacking
    • I hear people do this all the time.  They brag about golfing on “sick days” and how they were able to put off an assignment.  Your network will hear this, and they will remember it.
  • Collect all methods of contact: Phone numbers, eMail addresses, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • If you do lose your job, don’t bombard everyone in every possible manner.  You don’t like when someone leaves you 3 messages, 6 eMails, and 4 Facebook messages.  It’s annoying!  Try one point of contact every few days.

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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