By Wendy Steele
If you thought companies were downsizing, being bought out and closing left and right during the recession, well it’s sad to say, but nothing has really changed since then. Sure, more jobs have opened up, but company bankruptcies and the mergers and acquisitions are unprecedented these days! Westinghouse, RadioShack and hundreds of retailers have entered the blood bath in 2017 alone! 2016 was off the chain with mergers and acquisitions. Think Time Warner and AT&T, Microsoft and LinkedIn, Pfizer and Allergen… wait that one didn’t go through. Who knows what they’re up to though to get around those tax laws.
Since 2005, when our telecom company started selling off divisions (or it might have been before then), I’ve seen former coworkers (and clients too) go through revolving doors with layoffs, but I’ve also seen quite a few survive the chopping block and stay with their companies for 10 years or more! Those who didn’t, merged right into a similar or advanced role with ease. Okay, this is how they do it and you can too.
Be a Leader . Those who always need direction are some of the first to go during a downsize or layoff. You don’t have be bossy, but speak up during meetings and offer something of value. Don’t wait to be asked to take on special projects. Volunteer if you think you’re the best one for the job. See a problem? Fix it! Senior management loves problem solvers. Show that you can adapt to change and that you can lead your team in change as well. You will be noticed.
Toot Your Own Horn . When I’m asking my clients for accomplishments during a consultation, some tell me they are just not good at this. I say well you better start or you’ll get left behind! Now, I don’t mean outright bragging and walking around boasting that you’ve saved the world, but you can subtly tell how you’ve leaped tall buildings in a single bound by keeping a record of everything you’ve done for your department or company as a whole. I’m talking things that delivered results like saved the company money, increased efficiency, reduced down time or anything that improved the culture. I learned this back when we were required to do self-assessments and appraisals for our own performance review. Many companies are doing this today, but back in the early 2000s this was very new to us. Being in IT, this was difficult at first, but the more I thought about it the easier it got. I developed a flow chart for our department, was instrumental in improving our ACH time, successfully performed troubleshooting remotely when on-call without having to go in to the department, and so on. Before I knew it, I had a whole list of accomplishments that helped our team. My manager agreed, and combined with his assessment I got a nice raise! Not only that, prior to the layoffs I had a choice to move with the department if I wanted to.
Develop Your Language Skills . Do you know Spanish, but haven’t used it in a while? Brush up! Learn Chinese in your spare time. With companies going more global these days being bi-lingual certainly doesn’t hurt. I remember we had about 3 Spanish speaking coworkers in my department of about 60. Those people got paid 15% to 25% more than everyone else. Plus, I know two of them who went on to other departments when company layoffs started happening. In fact, those same two have never been laid off that I know of. If they have, it must have been for a very short stint. In any case, it’s helped me too in doing business with our Miami clients. Although I’m not fluent, not only has learning Spanish helped in conversing, it’s helped me in understanding the Latin market. Specifically, banking, investments and manufacturing. You can do the same even if you just learn conversational Spanish. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, French may be the better choice. Whatever will help in securing potential clients, or in working with suppliers learn it!
Build Relationships with management, clients, vendors and so on. If the company completely shuts down, or they simply decided to bring all of their own employees after an acquisition, well there’s nothing you can do about that. However, if you’ve been building and maintaining relationships all along, they may remember you and either bring you along with them to the next company, their current one or give you a great recommendation. I have clients and friends who do just that. They don’t have to go through the arduous task of searching for another job, which most times is a job in and of itself. They move on to the next company with ease because during that relationship building, they built up a reputation for being the best at what they do.
Don’t Wait! Now this one is my last and most important tip of all. Polish up that resume! Update it at least every three to six months. Keep up with the latest trends in your field. Learn new technology and get those certifications. Join LinkedIn and network when you don’t need a job. Don’t wait until it’s publicly announced that a layoff or company buyout is about to take place. Most of the time you hear it through the grapevine at least a year or two prior. Start preparing then. Always be ready for better opportunities regardless of what’s going on in your company.
We all know there’s no surefire way to avoid being laid off, but you can at least prolong it or make your transition smoother. Remember, you are still in control of some things… like your career.
Hope these tips help. Got questions? Just email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Wendy D. Steele
One of the most commonly asked questions of aspiring entrepreneurs is: What do you wish you would have known before starting your business? I can think of a whole lot! But for this series, let’s start with some basics. The following is a list of five Do’s and Dont’s I would recommend for any of you who are thinking of starting a business. Note: This is similar to the brief post I did last year, but more elaborate. I figured it’s worth mentioning again since it keeps coming up. 🙂
- Do make sure you’re cut out for business. You may be an expert in your field of IT or accounting, but do you have what it takes to truly run a business? Do you have thick skin? Being in the writing industry I have friends who are great writers, story tellers, editors and so on, but they don’t know the first thing about marketing or bookkeeping and they don’t care to learn either. As long as they can get some freelance jobs, or friends send clients their way to keep them working, that’s all that matters until they hit a dry spell, get scammed into giving away services or Uncle Sam comes a knocking! Just knowing your craft is not enough. I know, maybe you’re just not good at all that admin. stuff and besides… it’s boring! Many say just hire someone to do what you don’t know how or want to do, but when you’re starting out you may not be able to fit the extra cost into your budget. However, if you have a spouse, other family member or friend who can help you out great! Otherwise, it’s best to learn some of these things on your own before starting your business. I studied the literary industry for 3 years before I launched my first book. Since a service business is different from a non-traditional one like the literary industry, before I started BluePrint Resumes & Consulting, I took a small business course just to learn some basics. Till this day, I proudly display that certificate on the wall of my office.
- Don’t jump on bandwagons. It seems like every other celebrity has a new fragrance out, clothing store or restaurant these days. Think reality TV star or singer. Social media, blogging and freelancing are the new bandwagons. Oh, and let’s not forget vlogging, yeah everyone wants to be a Youtube sensation now! While we do live in a free enterprise society and you may be thinking if it makes money why not, you need to really do your research to see what’s all involved and if you can handle the particular business. And just remember when a market gets overly saturated that just makes it harder to compete and many times drives the prices down. The best thing to do when you hear of a good money making idea is to get in on the ground floor. If you do enter a market that’s heavily saturated, find something that’s missing and what you can do differently to serve the masses. That’s how I’ve succeeded in my business for the last 12 years. Today, there are thousands of resume writers out there, but none of them do it the way we do!
- Do Plan, and Plan and… Plan! Yes, everyone says to have a business plan, and this is true. I’m not talking about the kind that you put together to get a loan or investors either. I’m talking about your own plan from A to Z and beyond. The first plan of course involves your product or service, where you’ll operate, how you’ll market it, your sales projections and so on, but don’t stop once you get up and running. Don’t even stop when things are going great. You have to plan for sustainability and growth. Plan for market changes and so on. You may have heard the saying A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Well, I had never heard of it before until about four years ago during one our career conference workshops. And boy was that speaker right! I truly tried to have planning days even after I was well out of my startup days, but I was just so busy I couldn’t seem to fit them in. Well, I was forced to fit ’em in because eventually those dry spells hit me, and I mean hard! I almost didn’t know what to do. I let that be a lesson to continue my planning. I set aside at least one day a week. If I miss that day, I make sure to get it in as soon as possible.
- Don’t take every customer or client, because every customer or client is not your customer or client. Seriously, as Michael Port says in the bestseller Book Yourself Solid, he used to take anyone with a pulse and a checkbook (or something like that). I was the same way! When you’re first starting out you’re happy that people will pay for your services. You’re ecstatic if the lead came easily too. But… you need to do as sales and marketing pros do and qualify your leads. Ask pertinent questions and listen to their questions. Are they asking for cheap, fast and excellence? Are they willing to pay, yet sound like they may be difficult to work with? Are they telling you, the expert how to do your job when they haven’t even become a customer yet? Are they haggling you to come down on your prices and trying to cheapen your service or product? Any red flags like this, run! Just politely refer them to a general directory for similar services. You don’t have to take everyone or accept every assignment just to make a buck. For every no, we nearly always get a yes. Sometimes you just won’t know if a person is going to be a problem until you’ve already taken them on, but a consultation beforehand will cut down on a lot of headaches. So again, qualify your leads. You’ll be glad you did.
- Do move slow and steady. Many times, a business owner sees the profits steady coming in and think they can expand, but you need to learn your seasons. You know the peaks and valleys, when it’s slow and when it’s busy. When you need to hire employees, don’t rush it, maybe outsourcing or hiring contract 1099s will be more cost effective. Keep your overhead low until you see how things go for a few months. I’m telling you that’s another lesson I learned. When I first started out, as soon as I started growing, or thought I was, I started hiring temp to perm and perm, giving all these benefits and perks because things were good. Then, I hit my dry seasons and had to start cutting hours, people started getting anxious and impatient. I get it! I mean people gotta eat and they’ve gotta pay the bills. Well, so do you! So, remember, slow and steady wins the race.
For most things, you’re just not going to learn until you’ve actually been in business for awhile, but hopefully these five tips will be a good reminder as you launch your new business.
Got questions? Feel free to sign up on my email list at the top of the page.
By Wendy Steele
Founder of BluePrint Résumés & Consulting
Letters are read as long as they’re written right. Not those generic ones that you submit in a job search engine blast. Cover letters are meant to put you at the top of the pile and to get your résumé noticed quicker. Many people start off with the wrong salutation and follow up with the same exact things that are already in their résumé. The following are some key things you should and should not add in a cover letter.
What You Should Add:
A salutation to the effect of: Dear Mr./Ms., Dear Recruiter, or something that addresses a direct person.
Examples of how you will solve their problem, save time, grow their business or whatever their goal is.
Professional Development…any additional training, seminars or workshops you have attended. This can be especially helpful if you’re an older worker or someone who’s been away from the industry for a period of time.
Additional accomplishments that you didn’t have room in the résumé to add. You can even add customer kudos if you have them.
Sabbatical reasons, but don’t go too deep. You just want to briefly explain a gap. For example, if you were laid off and used this time to finish school, took time off to travel overseas, care for family or what have you.
What You Should NOT Add:
Antiquated salutation that says: Dear Madam or Dear Sir. Not only does this scream cover letter blast, but to a hiring manager it shows that you didn’t even care enough to look up the name of the interviewer, hiring manager or company department.
The same exact details already in your résumé. If you just want to reiterate something, you can reword it without sounding repetitive. So that when they do get to the résumé it’s not boring.
Salary requirements unless they are specifically requested.
Everything you want because it’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for the company.
Too many personal details such as a major illness or having and raising children. Some job candidates think that honesty is the best policy. Well, when it comes to the job search don’t ask don’t tell is the best policy.
And lastly you SHOULD answer any questions that are listed on a job posting specifically requesting a cover letter and you SHOULD NOT add things that just “sound” nice and flowery. Like non-relevant info. or generic phrases.
Got questions? Feel free to email BluePrint Résumés & Consulting at: email@example.com or contact me, Wendy Steele at: Wendydknows@gmail.com
And as always… Good luck in your career search!