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If you lost your job, would you be prepared?

    Like a squirrel prepare for if you lost your job

    Most employees are not immune from being sacked or made redundant. Imagine if you unexpectedly lost your job today: no redundancy pay, no notice, no gold watch and no leaving do.

    One minute you are working on that really urgent project trying to hit the deadline. The next minute you are called into an awkward meeting with your boss and somebody from HR and told your job no longer exists.

    Before it happens, you should consider how to prepare for the possibility of losing your job.

    It’ll never happen…

    Don’t think losing your job could never happen to you. In a service business, staff are the biggest cost and the biggest headache. Employees take sick leave, have the occasional ‘off’ day, require insurance, take holidays etc. Positions are being automated, with tasks being replaced by robots, machines and cheaper workers.

    Nobody you work with will advise you to plan for job loss. Your boss, company, mentor and HR department all want you to be entirely dependent on the company. Suddenly and unexpectedly losing your job is nearly always a significant and unwelcome life changing event. How much of a life changing event it is for you really depends on how well you are prepared for it from a financial, social and professional aspect. If you already have some options in place, becoming unemployed will be easier to cope with – at least on a financial level.

    Plan to be prepared

    Make a list of exactly what you would do if you lost your job, and prioritise it. It’s a good idea to review your plan at least every six months to take into account any changes in your circumstances. Some of the factors to consider might include:

    What would you do if you lost your job?

    Losing your job out of the blue would probably be a shock, even if you saw the writing on the wall. If you think you’d need some time to come to terms with your change in circumstances, remember you don’t have to jump right back into the work force. But if finding a new role will be your priority, a significant amount of your time will be spent job searching: this could include visiting job board websites, and uploading your resume to relevant sites. Which sites target your profession?

    Who would you get in touch with?

    Your established contacts may know about vacancies that are only advertised through word-of-mouth. Make sure you already have their phone numbers and email addresses stored on your own phone or computer.

    Which clients would be happy to continue to work with you if you moved to a different company or went freelance? Who would be your first, second and third customer?

    You could even talk to the people that you would call and meet with the people that you would meet now. Having solid, long term relationships in place, built on a strong foundation of relationship equity, will mean these people will be far more willing and able to assist you when you actually need assistance.

    How would you cope financially?

    It’s a good idea to develop a budget now, comparing your current finances against a period of potentially zero income (at least for a month or more unless you have other sources of income). This will help you to work out how much savings you have, and add to them if necessary, and existing and possible expenses such as food, transport, utility bills, mortgage repayments and other loans, health and medical needs, car or house maintenance requirements, necessary insurance premiums and so on.

    If managing bills will be a problem if you lost your job, be ready to take immediate action to keep on top of things. You can contact utility providers (electricity, gas, water, etc.) about developing a payment plan to pay your bills in instalments and advice on reducing consumption. You can also talk to your bank or other organisations you may owe money to about repayment options, and avoid putting your home or car at risk. Find out what options are available to you.

    You may also be eligible for government assistance, for example from Centrelink or rent assistance.

    What would you need to cut back on if you lost your job?

    Without a regular income, you may have to cut back on non-essentials such as eating out, new clothes and your usual caffeine fix. But your internet connection is one thing you definitely should keep, rather than relying on free wi-fi – you’d be spending a lot of time online for your job search, applying for jobs, researching companies and getting in touch with contacts about potential opportunities.

    Are your skills and qualifications relevant and up to date?

    It’s both important and rewarding to develop your skills throughout your working life – it not only increases your chances of getting a job, it can also help you get more from your current job. If you lose your job, it may give you the chance to explore new opportunities you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time to, such as start a business or retrain.

    As professional development comes in many forms, it’s worthwhile considering the different options before you need to use them.

    How long would it take to find a new position?

    The amount of time it takes to find a new role varies, but bear in mind that it can take a company at three months or more to decide to hire someone, advertise the job, interview candidates, make an offer and then employ someone.

    However there are things you can do now to speed up the process, such as developing a strong cover letter, updating your resume and uploading your resume to jobsites.

    How would you differentiate yourself from other people in a similar position?

    To ensure you would stand out from other candidates, identify what makes you unique. This could be due to your knowledge, transferable skills (eg how you use your initiative, how you manage your time, what makes you a good communicator) or personal skills (ie the qualities that make you who you are, for example if you’re reliable, or decisive or flexible).

    Is your resume up to date?

    Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, it’s a good idea to review your resume about every six months or after a major project or achievement. As well as ensuring your resume is up to date, this also gives you the chance to take account of what’s been happening in your career so far and identify where you might be falling short of your professional goals and any gaps in your skills or experience.

    Do you have an online brand?

    Your social media profile is your new business card. Many people network online, making new connections via LinkedIn – which could lead to your next role. A potential employer may Google your name – what will they find out about you? Give them something professional and current to read.

    Help if you’ve lost your job

    If your employer has offered you outplacement services assistance after you have lost your job, you can get assistance with developing your plan, getting the most out of networking, updating your resume or any of the steps mentioned above.