Plan for Career Shocks, Minimise the Damage

Risk alert: shocks heading towards your career!  In this crazy, fast-moving and profit orientated world, our careers are vulnerable to a series of shocks from the market, organisation and life itself. A few local examples: an organisational wide restructuring leaves you without a job. Or you are turned down for a promotion. The sixth time in two years. Your package is 20% below your co-workers in the same position and you are waiting indefinitely for a pay adjustment. You have a dead end job. Your once valued qualification is losing ground in the market. You are job hunting for months without success. You have five years until retirement and realise that your company pension is inadequate. You planned to use the ‘automatic’ annual bonus for a Seychelles cruise. Except that the organisation experienced a bad year and skipped the bonus. You suffer a heart attack, time to exit from the rat race.

While it is impossible for an individual to avoid all shocks, you can manage the risk-return relationships in your career.  Pay attention to these five areas

1. Know the inside of your Organisation

Many employees were caught by surprise when their employers, Enron and Arthur Anderson collapsed. The point is that you should know how your organisation operates in the market, makes money, the management politics, the business challenges and ethical conduct.  You should be ready for the next round of restructuring before it happens. And wary of corruption.

2. Watch that Job

Organisations own the job, you possess the talent. A job is merely a vehicle for building your human capital, establishing a performance track record and propelling career growth. When your job has outlived its purpose, move up or move out!  If you hold on to a dead end job, the risks are carried by your career. 

3. Power up your Human Capital

Your human capital comprises the accumulated qualifications, experience, skills and competences over your career.  It is portable and valuable to organisations competing for talent. You need to learn, unlearn and learn again. If your qualification is losing ground, you may select personal investments outside of the normal organisational development plan. Or seek new opportunities in the market to capitalise on other components of your human capital.

4. Understand the new Career/Life Cycle

Traditionally, your career followed a predictable path through childhood discovery, expansion during adolescence, rapid rise in early adulthood, peaking in mid-life and decline in retirement. There was a high degree of correlation between your expertise and earnings in the different stages of life. Today, it is possible to find dotcom millionaires in their teens and unemployed professionals over the age of fifty. Each generation (Baby Boomers, X and Y) are exposed to different risks in their careers in terms of their job hunt, sustainability of their lifestyle and financial rewards. Prepare for a new career in retirement.

5. Stay in the Money

Your capacity to deal with a career shock is ultimately influenced by your financial situation. It determines whether you have several choices or just one. Funding a twenty year bond solely on the strength of a pay check is far from a risk free arrangement. The spike in interest rates over the past twelve months has squeezed over indebted employees. At minimum, you should have an established line of credit and a cash safety net of at least three months take home pay.

By planning for career shocks, you can minimise the damage and bounce back with a stronger career.

(Star Workplace, November 2007)

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