Today is April 1st. This marks two years since I got laid off from my job as Director of Business Development with a consulting firm. April 2009 was about the worst time in the economic storms that have hit the world economy over the past three years, and the news hit me hard that day.... when I found out my job was being eliminated.
But two years later today marks a celebration. After I got the bad news I called my wife and told her I had been laid off and that I was not going to seek a new position (in April 2009 there were few positions available anyway). I was officially an entrepreneur.
Thus today is sort of the birthday of my career as a professional speaker, consultant, and mentor / coach.
But it was not really the first day of this career. I had launched my first book four years earlier, and New Year Publishing was already starting to prosper. I had been doing paid speaking events for some time, and knew this was what I really wanted to be doing for my vocation.
It has not been easy. I have had be creative to allow my family to maintain our lifestyle, and I have found that running your own business is harder than you think from the viewpoint of an employee. I have had success and failures along the way, but I have also had a lot of fun. I have learned more about business, people, relationships, and sales than I would have imagined possible in such a short time.
Had I not started my business before I got laid off I do not think I would have had the option to go on my own the past two years (although I am not really alone, as I have a wonderful family who supports the cause and a business partner in New Year Publishing who is a true visionary).
I am now working with several clients who want to set up a path toward working for themselves. Some want to be speakers / consultants, while others have different business plans... but the common thread is the desire to establish a safety net in case the economy hits another dip.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, published an article yesterday predicting a "Double Dip" in the economic conditions. If he is right then there is more tough times coming.
What can you do now to protect yourself from a worse economy?
1. Be realistic about your work situation. Many people, myself included, rationalize that while the economy is troubled, their job is secure. The truth is that if you work for someone else and they have to make tough decisions, you could be the one who gets cut. Hard times bring difficult choices. Do not pretend you are safe.
2. Put some money away for a rainy day. I had been working towards having a financial cushion for my family. I only had about 40% saved from the "magic" number I had invented, but that money kept us above water for two years as my business grew.
3. Know what you are very good at doing. Even in rough economic times there are jobs available. If you are clearly excellent at what you do then someone out there will want you as part of their team. This is not the time to simply be "good enough". You must be able to clearly show why your skills are unique and can help a company grow and succeed
4. Understand your existing non-compete agreements. I personally find it gross when employers lay people off because of the company's financial problems and then make a big deal about the enforceability of their "non-compete agreements". This is one sided and selfish, but very common. Many employers will waive the non-compete situation if the person is laid off because of the company's money constraints, but others will toss you out and keep you from working for anyone else. Do not assume if you get laid off that you can go to the competition.
5. Start networking NOW. Do not wait until you are out of work to begin to network. Most career consultants will encourage people to network when looking for a job, but everyone knows a "selfish-networker" who only shows up in their business community when they have a personal need. To harness the power of your network you must be actively cultivating relationships long before you need them. A great idea is to help people you know who are currently out of work. Make introductions for them, help them brainstorm and buy them lunch often while you are the one with a job. If the tables turn you don't want to be the guy who ignored them in their time of need.
6. Talk to your spouse and kids. What would you all expect from each other if one of you lost your job. Have a back up plan in place that you all buy into and can support. If you want to start your own business or become a consultant make sure everyone knows what that means for the family and the allocations of resources (aka: money and time).
7. Hire a coach. When money is tight you might not be able to rationalize working with a business / career / life coach. Yet sometimes it is very helpful to have the perspective of someone else who is not too close to your personal situation. All the best athletes work with several professional coaches to fine tune their games, and it is now very common for business executive to hire coaches to help them navigate their careers. In fact most successful people I know have worked with a coach or a mentor at some point in their lives. It is better to begin this work while you have the income stream and unlimited options. Waiting until you are hit by an economic speed bump can make it harder for you to see the choices ahead of you.
Good luck, and hopefully the economy will skyrocket instead of hitting a "Double Dip".... but either way you need to set yourself up for success!
Have A Great Day.