The Employment Shocks Begin: How to Prepare Yourself for Uncertain Times

The Employment Shocks Begin: How to Prepare Yourself for Uncertain Times
The closing numbers are displayed after the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on March 12 in New York. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

The world’s largest economy is turning on a dime!


During the second week of March, 211,000 workers filed new claims for jobless benefits, according to the Labor Department. These claims are viewed by labor experts as a proxy for layoffs. Last week the number jumped to 281,000. And by the time you read this in the last full week of March, new weekly claims for jobless benefits may jump to 2.25 million, according to Goldman Sachs Economics Research.      


Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you. Even the most seemingly secure – from the big corner office to the tiniest cubicle – can be at risk of sudden job loss when the economy slows. Additional reasons for a job loss include a change in corporate strategy, petty office politics, a strained relationship with one’s boss, a sudden merger or acquisition, or a host of other factors.


[MORE RESOURCES: MOAA's Transition and Career Center]


Regardless of your position in the corporate food chain, a lot changes when you lose your job. There’s a loss of identity, a loss of structure, a loss of camaraderie, and maybe a loss of passion, depending on the role the job played in your life. Responding with a proactive and positive mindset will set you apart and help you recover.


In this uncertain and rapidly changing economic environment, it pays to periodically update your personal files in the event of a sudden job loss. First, don’t keep all of your professional data, contact information, and e-mail archives exclusively on a company-controlled computer. At a minimum, e-mail address books, essential networking and schedule information, contact lists, commendatory correspondence, company directories, and other details of your professional life should be periodically backed up on portable memory or a personal computer.


Moreover, details of your proudest achievements needed to refresh your résumé, update your LinkedIn profile, and intensify the networking process leading to your next job are especially important, including revenue increased, costs reduced, subordinates nurtured, teams led, problems solved, and intellectual property you authored while in your current role. All of this data should be archived on a device (or in cloud storage) under your control.  


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Equally important, don’t be lulled into complacency thinking the worst could never happen by overestimating your value to the organization. Take small steps every week to increase your value to your current employer. Volunteer for projects others may seek to avoid, look for new ideas and methods to streamline difficult processes, and complete your projects on time and under budget.


Outside of work, look for opportunities to enlarge your professional network, strengthen your résumé, and reconnect with mentors by attending conferences, joining trade groups, publishing professional articles, and volunteering in areas where your skills may be in demand or where you would like to acquire experience. And finally, keep in touch with former bosses and others who may be able to accelerate your job search.


No one knows how quickly the economy will recover from the jolt of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, or how long the employment shocks may continue. The best strategy is to take specific actions every day to reaffirm your value in your current role and prepare for the transition to your next role, which may happen sooner than you expect. 

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About the Author

Capt. Jim Carman, USN (Ret), CAE
Capt. Jim Carman, USN (Ret), CAE

Capt. Jim Carman, USN (Ret), CAE, serves as MOAA's Vice President, Council/Chapter and Member Support. He is a Certified Association Executive and served as a Navy pilot for nearly 25 years.