Few things in corporate are more frustrating than the Dead Man Walking drill.
This is when your company was sold (or sales are way down, or you’re the target of a hostile takeover, or any number of other scenarios that grind work to a halt). You know for sure you’re going to lose your job…you just don’t know when. So you have to sit and wait for weeks or months, while the powers that be get around to adding your name to the spreadsheet and handing you your pink slip. In the meantime, there’s not much work to do, and you have way too much time to think about your situation.
Obviously, you’re going to spend some time job hunting. Aside from that, though, how should you fill your days? It’s tempting to sit around and mope with your colleagues, but there are other ways you can make this time useful. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get some letters after your name. A lot of fields have various levels of certification available. If yours is one of them, consider pursing certification. In HR, we have the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) and the SPHR (the Senior Professional in Human Resources). When HR people get together, they love to talk smack about whether it does or doesn’t mean anything to pass those tests. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that non-HR people have been impressed by those letters after my name, because they’ve told me so. I even got a contract job once from someone who told me she hired me because I must know HR if I had letters after my name. Yes, that’s totally illogical, but that contract job paid for most of the down payment on my house, which was a pretty good return on the $300 fee to sit for the exam. If you have time on your hands, you might as well spend it doing something that makes (some) people think you’re smart. You might even learn something while you’re studying.
- Take a class online. There are tons and tons of educational opportunities online now. If you’re short a few credits on your degree, get it done now. Even traditional colleges and universities offer classes online these days. If you’re a marketing person, take a basic accounting class so you don’t look like an idiot when the finance people talk in meetings. If you don’t know how to make things spin around in PowerPoint, now’s the time to learn (although you shouldn’t actually use that knowledge, because spinning things in PowerPoint presentations are really annoying). You won’t have time for this stuff once you find a new job.
- Volunteer. A lot of people who are in this circumstance are pissed off, and that can sometimes blind them to the opportunities that are all around them. If you have the self-discipline to keep your attitude in check, consider volunteering to help with the wind-down activities for your company. You’ll learn a ton, and it’s really valuable experience that you can only get the hard way. It also helps you managed the stress, because you feel that you have a bit more control of your destiny and a real reason to come to work. Sometimes you also get the inside scoop on what’s going to happen next.
- Start a blog. A week and a half ago, I found out that a friend of mine, Lance Haun, had lost his job. Lance writes a blog called Your HR Guy. As a result of his blog, he found a job. In 11 days. The company that hired him knew and liked him from the blog, and when he lost his job, they snapped him up. In 11 days. Blogging is a great way to build your network and work on your writing skills. It gives you something to do while you’re unemployed. It also helps you show who you are and what you know to employers in a way a resume never can (just so long as you don’t blog about your love of masturbation).
- Read other blogs. There is a ton of good stuff out there. Find it, read it, and comment on it. It’s a great way to network and find interesting new voices.
- Fast-forward to 2009. If you don’t know how to subscribe to an RSS feed, now you have time to learn. If you haven’t tried Twitter or Facebook or don’t know how to use Dropbox or Google Docs, try them out. You don’t have to like them (I finally joined Facebook and I’m trying to like it, but it’s slow going). You do have to know how this stuff works, though, in order to keep up with the rest of the world. That’s only going to help in your job search. Some of these tools also help build your network.
- Find out who your member of Congress is. There are way too many people out there who have no clue. Find out who is representing you in Congress, in your state legislature, and at the local level. Then look for their voting records. You’ll feel smart on election day.
DISCLAIMER: It goes without saying that if you have work to do, you should be doing it. If you’re still collecting the paychecks, you still have to get your work done. There’s no point in sticking it to The Man, because in doing so, you’re going to leave a lousy impression on your colleagues, who are your network for job hunting (and in some cases your friends as well). Don’t be a weenie. These suggestions are for when your work is done and you’re just sitting around waiting for something to happen…which, in my experience, can be a huge chunk of time.
Photo by thart2009