How you should be prepared for not having a job even when you have one

Well…if you haven’t felt it yet, it seems that our economy has turned from a big bowl into a sieve recently, and every minute people are falling through the holes as their jobs disappear. If you are suspecting that you might be heading in that direction too or just fancy a job change, here are some steps to help you prepare.

The backup plan

Sometimes it’s just your job that goes away, sometimes it’s the whole industry. Britain in particular has seen huge shifts in the economy over the last 50 years. From miners strikes, to a shift from manufacturing into financial services to financial services near-collapse in 2008, some of this stuff is etched in your memory as well as it is in mine. So in theory, we should all have a backup plan. This backup plan in my case focuses on two routes: finding like-for-like work in my field as the first and most obvious one, and a second one which is simply focused on making money in other ways if my industry cannot offer me work.

Since the first route is somewhat obvious, let me tell you a bit more about the second one. For me it includes a list of other jobs I would be willing to take if the times got desperate, alongside a list of potential employers. The list is based around the transferable skills and experience I have and includes, based on my own skillset: account traffic manager, PA/team coordinator, social media planner, Powerpoint designer and facilities manager. Most of these roles are in fact available outside of my core industry and do not require re-training. If you are working in a much narrower specialisation, then you might want to account for re-training in your plan B.

My backup plan also includes a list of top 3 small business ideas I collected over the years but never developed. All 3 are low startup cost things which can be scaled large and which can be started from home. They include: creating an au-pair/domestic help agency, starting an artisan soap production and a premium pyjamas business which, shock horror, I actually started working on recently. In my case all of these come with a fairly well developed roadmap and a light business plan as they’ve been pondered for years, but in your case this might be a much looser list and could literally be: make made to order macrame through etsy.

The whole point of having a backup plan however is not to make you pursue everything that’s on it the moment you get a wind of things possibly being less secure at work. The key use of this plan is to open your horizons a little and ensure that if the unfortunate happens, you are able to think clearly and know that the world has a long way to go before it ends for your career.

If you are in a long term relationship or married, the backup plan should incorporate both of your careers and scenarios where either of you or both are out of work.

Your CV

Your CV, also known as resume, is basically your shop window. What have you done that is interesting and valuable, and with whom? What makes you think that you’ll add more value to the organisation that you work with than the next person? Does your CV clearly show who you are and how you work? No? Well, update it. And once you updated it, make sure it is visible to anybody who might need your skillset. This goes for not just major economic crisis time – this goes for any time.

My perception might be skewed as I’ve been in so called highly skilled pocket of work for a long time now, but if you want to have a flourishing career, you need to be able to work with the gatekeepers of the career path just as well as with your existing and potential new colleagues. This includes making sure that the recruiters in your industry of choice not only have your CV but know your face, and that people doing the work you want and those possibly ‘managing’ them know you. LinkedIn and industry events and seminars are all pretty good to get you started both with bringing your CV to the world and searching for potential leads.

Keep your eyes and ears open

You need to know what’s happening in your industry and those connected to it, for two reasons. Firstly, in case you wanted to just change your jobs, you’d better know who’s looking for your skills. Secondly, in case your industry is about to get hit by something like a global pandemic or a political change. The first reason is strongly connected with the need to know people and be known in your little industrial bubble – a surprisingly high number of jobs is not advertised, instead it is filled in on recommendation. And even jobs which are advertised are often also filled on recommendation, especially for highly skilled, high profile roles. No, I’m not kidding and yes, more and more organisations have in recent years introduced HR process to level the playing field. But this does not change that you are more likely to get hired if the interviewer has heard good things about you from somebody than the candidate who nobody has ever heard of.

There is one more thing to keep on your radar. Although we always want the best case scenario, the chances are that if something goes really badly in the economy, you might indeed lose your job overnight and without a warning. To prepare for this be aware of your rights, including contracted severance package, and any level of social benefits available to you should you be unemployed. This should include any sponsorship/financial support to retrain for one of your Plan B roles as well as any grants available if you’d want to take the route of starting your own business.

Build a financial buffer

I don’t think it’s fair to tell somebody who might have just lost their job to start saving up, so I left this one for the end. If you are in work, make it your priority to build up savings suitable to support your household for at least 3 months. If you have kids, make it 6 months or more. If you are not working, make it a priority as soon as you are generating income – the only thing that goes before this is getting current on your bills. There is nothing else to be said on the topic of emergency money.

Thank you for reading and I hope this article is of some use. If you have been affected by the Covid-19 spurred economic crisis, please ensure you are accessing all the social benefit payments available to you.

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