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How to actively stay employed post-COVID when more layoffs are coming

Compete on value, not on price

Never assume that you will not be laid off especially in a post-COVID-19 world. No one is immune from organisational restructures and down-sizing.

If you have a job now, it’s time to self-evaluate. Take proactive action to prepare yourself for any potential layoffs that may be on the horizon.

We are living in uncertain times. Businesses, big and small, will try to conserve their cash as much as they can. When they restructure or downsize just to survive, more jobs will be eliminated.

Even if your manager says that you have been a star performer since joining the organisation, layoff decisions are made higher up the management chain. These decisions are made quickly. They are made outside the hands of your manager.

Be prepared. Approach the future as if you are going to be laid off. By doing so, there is a sense of urgency. It avoids being complacent. It creates a bit of anxiety, even fear, for you to take proactive action now.

Many workers can have their heads in the sand. More so if they have been working in one organisation for a long time. Or they assume that their jobs are secure because of their tenure.

No employer will guarantee anyone their job security even if you have been the best performer during pre-pandemic times. This applies to big and small organisations including government departments and agencies.

Workers don’t plan to be without a job, but they fail to plan and secure their jobs for the inevitable. When you expect more layoffs to come, it will put you in a different frame of mind to do something about it now.

It is, therefore, a good time to get your ducks in a row.

More importantly, it is a good time to change your old paradigm or mindset. Embrace the contemporary paradigm of finding and securing your job!

Staying employed is a strategy game

The contemporary employee paradigm that requires you to strategically do the following:

  • Develop a career growth strategy that is intentional. It should take into account your identity and personal circumstances.
  • Know what you want to be known for based on your identity and unique value proposition to employers.
  • Optimise your value proposition using relevant keywords in your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • Building your professional brand by constantly marketing and promoting yourself and your work to your network and employers.
  • Running a business of one where you provide services in return for a payment in the form of a salary or wage.
  • Targeting employers where you are emotionally connected to. These are dream job employers where you want to contribute your unique skills and experience.
  • Building professional relationships with people at these preferred employers, both off and online.
  • Networking your way into your dream job by going around the dreaded application tracking system (ATS). Avoid the spraying and praying method of online job applications.
  • Serving people in your networks by giving them value. Indirectly tell them to remember you.
  • Curating and sharing relevant information on social media platforms, etc. When you know more about your contacts, you will know what they are interested in. 
  • Continuously reading, upskilling and updating your knowledge. This is where lifelong learning comes in. You can’t serve people and curate and share relevant information if you have nothing to give.

Make yourself indispensable by specialising and branding

Can your work be done by someone else in your organisation? 

If so, then your job is not secure.

When someone else can do your job at a much lower cost, or at a much faster rate or pace than you, then it is time to be looking out for new job opportunities. When you are just a commodity competing on price rather than value, there will not be any job security. This is why older workers, who feel entitled, cry out age discrimination!

You must, therefore, focus on a particular niche or specialisation for job security. You need to be able to solve specific problems or eliminate specific pain points to be valuable or indispensable to an employer. 

You must also be comfortable marketing or branding yourself to prospective buyers (employers) who are willing to pay you for the value you are able to create for them or the problem you are going to solve for them.

By shifting the focus from an entitled mentality to value creation (return in investment) mentality, employees can gain a different perspective. 

This is vitally important when unemployment rates are above 20% for many economies.

There are now more job seekers. The complexity of technology and work are ever-increasing exponentially. Employers are seeking more skilled workers, technical and non-technical, who are specialised in particular niches to solve specialised problems. Having deep knowledge in a particular area will be your key to future successes to remain employable and in employment.

You need to be relevant to your employer’s business model, either by making or saving money. It is creating an essential job profile that your employer will die for.

Here’s the thing. Everyone is good at something. Focus on those unique skills. Your unique value contribution will differentiate you from the crowd. This will enable you to compete on value, not on price!

Creating a compelling career narrative

Your career narrative is your personal story of how previous jobs, experiences and professional life have shaped you into who you are now. It describes how you have acquired key skills, what choices you made in the past, the kind of work you will do for the employer and what value you will specifically create with your experiences.

It is a compelling human story that emotionally connects all the dots in your working life. It also supports and aligns with your vision, values and brand, purpose in life, and identity as a human being. 

Your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile sets out a personal compelling and powerful career narrative. The cover letter documents your human story. It will be based on the value you will create through your specialisation. It is linked to your ideal dream job employers where you have developed an emotional connection with through the usage of their products, services or brand.

If you have a job right now, target ideal employers that you want to work for, even if you love your current job. These could be your next dream job!

If you have been laid off or are currently unemployed, draw up a list of ideal employers that you would like to work for. This is part of your career growth strategy.

The spray and pray method of online job hunting will not work in the current situation. There is mass unemployment in the job market. It is saturated with experienced and skilled job seekers.

Your emotional connection will provide the required competitive edge over other job seekers. It will increase the sense of purpose and meaning in your work life. If you do not have an emotional connection with an employer, you will most likely come across as ‘cold’. You are not invested personally in the mission, vision and purpose of the employer. Cultural fit is two-ways.

Clean up your social media profile

It is common for recruiters, hiring managers and people you want to network with to Google your name and achievements. They want to know more about you, what you did in the past and what is your professional background.

If your social media activity can raise red flags, it is time to delete those profiles. Strong opinions may not go well with conservative employers.

Know your real value or worth to your employer

The contemporary paradigm requires employees to quantify and justify their successes and achievements. 

When you can quantify your achievements and results, you can effectively demonstrate value creation to your employer. If you are receiving $100,000 per year in salary, then you should be creating value in excess of $140,000 per year for your employer! (Salary cost plus benefits, taxes, etc.)

Don’t just say, “I wrote articles for a local publisher.” Instead, quantify your achievements by saying, “I wrote 10 articles per week for ABC publisher. They have 100,000 readers located in five districts. Their average reader satisfaction score is 4.6 over 5.

Focus on how manyhow often and how much.

In a job interview or in your conversations, don’t say, “I do fundraising for cancer research.” 

Instead, quantify your accomplishments in fundraising. Say that you have “increased fundraising contributions for cancer research by 30% over the last two years and have raised a total of $100,000 in the last financial year.

Numbers easily quantify success. They quickly give an employer the motivation to hire you! No more BS or fluff.

Keyword optimise your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile

Project your specialised niche and skills and quantifiable accomplishments to employers through your keyword optimised resume and LinkedIn profile. These documents are your ‘marketing brochure’ about yourself, your career narrative,and how you can add or create value for your employers.

Now is the best time to get your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile updated and ready to go in a short notice.

Whether job seekers like it or not, they must ‘sell’ themselves and their value proposition to employers. Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for high achievers who can solve the organisation’s pain points or generate a profit for them. This applies to both employees and contractors/freelancers. You are technically in business for yourself. You are running a business of one.

Keep in mind the following when you are ‘selling’ yourself:

  • Your cover letter is not a summary of your resume. Instead, your cover letter sets out your career narrative, your human story. It must emotionally connect you to the organisation’s vision, mission, brand product or services. Culture fit is two-ways. When your vision, values and brand are aligned with the employer’s vision, values, brand and working culture, it ignites passion and motivation to perform at your peak. You become employable. Your cover letter essentially answers these questions — What was your experience using the products or services? What is special about their products or services? Why do you want to work here? Is there a cultural fit if you are hired to work here?
  • Your LinkedIn profile is your public resume. Both documents must be aligned. They must be keyword optimised based on the skills, experience and achievements employers are specifically looking for.
  • Keep in mind the 6-second rule. Recruiters and hiring managers will only spend an average of 6 seconds skimming over a resume. Therefore, you must strategically optimise the “above the fold” part of your resume. This is the portion of the page that is immediately visible when your resume is first opened on the computer screen. The portion of the page that requires scrolling down in order to see more content is called “below the fold.” Convey all key information about yourself and your achievements in that “above the fold” space — test it out before sending your resume!
  • Focus on key factual achievements, specific employer keywords and verifiable numbers on your resume and LinkedIn profile. You must show and provide evidence, not tell or brag about how good you are. Provide verifiable and quantifiable evidenceEmployers buy on value, not on personal subjective assertions about yourself. They want evidence to show that you can successfully accomplish the work in return for the salary they pay you. Hiring managers may even call your referees to verify these numbers and achievements.
  • A resume should not include soft skills — show rather than tell. Demonstrate how you have accomplished or achieved something using your soft skill. To show that you are “results-oriented,” indicate on your resume how you have increased sales by X per cent within a year or increased the number of customers by Y per cent compared to previous years. List specialised technical skills that are relevant or critical for the job. Shed some light on your method of execution.
  • Provide objective measures of your achievement using the chronological work history order. Start with your current or most recent employers. If there are working gaps in your work history, list them too. Your career narrative will address these work gaps in a convincing way. It will be documented in your cover letter.
  • Don’t list the responsibilities of your previous jobs. Instead, demonstrate quantifiable accomplishments in your past employment.
  • Less be better. Whet their appetite. Write enough quantitative facts about your accomplishments to get hiring managers to call you for more information. Don’t give them too much information to toss your resume out.
  • Write out and rehearse your answers to behavioural questions. These will be used for your job interviews. Behavioural interviewing is based around your personality, aptitude and experience. By preparing well, you do not look nervous. Rather you will look confident and professional. This will eliminate any waffling and bragging.

Create a wishlist of dream job employers that you are emotionally connected to

Armed with an updated and keyword optimised resume and LinkedIn profile that sets out your career narrative, accomplishments and what value you will create using your specialised skills and experience, it is time to create a wishlist of employers you ideally want to work for.

The ideal place to work is created when the employer’s vision, values and brand are also aligned with your vision, values and brand. To find your dream job employers that you are emotionally connected with, think about the products, services and brand that you have experienced with and have a personal story for.

These are organisations you respect. It could be for their brand, their services, what they do for the community, or what they stand for.

You should have an emotional connection with the products and services that these targetted employers have given you, or that you have experienced. This emotional connection will naturally feed into your career narrative and into your interactions and conversations.

Your enthusiasm will naturally glow when you interact with the organisation and the people working there. It will also be great for interviews. 

For example, you had a good customer service experience with a mobile phone company. They went out of their way to give your mother a customised service that was not listed on their website. Their employees were friendly and understanding. On numerous times, you had to call their call centre to work out a solution for your elderly mother with special needs. You have been impressed and pleasantly surprised. With this emotional experience or connection, you now want to work for that mobile phone company.

Workers need to be experiencing work as a calling instead of just a job. They do so by changing their perspective. When this occurs, workers can move toward a more meaningful and fulfilling experience and purpose in life. It will also minimise any dissatisfaction with their work-life.

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75 Ways to love your work (and be actively engage in your job without hating it!)

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People who experience their work as a calling will feel a deep alignment between their work and who they are as a person. They feel a personal and emotional connection to their work and their workplace. They are enthusiastic and have a sense of purpose. 

There is a willingness to work harder and longer to make a positive and meaningful contribution. They are often the most satisfied with their professional or work situation. They become high-achievers.

Network with like-minded people in your industry or people with similar skills

Once you have your career growth strategy, narrative and emotional connections clarified and defined, it now time to connect with like-minded people in the organisations you would love to work in. It could include people in the industry or people you admire.

Your emotional connection with the organisation will create “a want torather than “a have to” desire to reach out and network with employees already working there. It will be a joyful experience, even if you hate cold calling. It is not a dreaded task that you want to avoid doing.  

Your aim is to network your way across your 1st, 2nd or even 3rd level connections. This is to source for information, introductions and referrals. 

LinkedIn has made networking so much easier. There are many features to help you find the right people to connect with.

When the hiring manager looks up your profile on LinkedIn, they will see other people you know in their organisation. This adds weight to your application.

As a business of one, you are the only salesperson of your brand. No one else will do this for you!

Networking becomes easier when you know that you are emotionally connected with the brand and the people working in those organisations delivering the services and products.

Your passion and enthusiasm towards their brand, products or services will show up in your interactions with people and with potential recruiters and hiring managers.

By constantly networking, it reduces the need to do the dreaded cold calling or reaching out to strangers when you become unemployed. 

Get around the hidden job market and the applicant tracking system

With more job seekers flooding the job market, many potential employers will avoid going into the open market to advertise for job applicants.

Instead, they would rather advertise on their company website. Even better, through internal word of mouth recommendations from their employees. They don’t have time to go through hundreds or even thousands of job applications. 

If they do advertise, they will rely on the automated applicant tracking system to reject 98% of job applications even before a human looks at them. The spray and pray method of online job applications is broken.

With such odds, you must create and nurture a network of people who can connect you with people who can help you get a job.

Now, more than ever, the hidden job market will become more prominent. The only way to get around this is to network yourself into a job.

Whether you like it or not, you have to actively put yourself out there. This is where professional branding becomes so important.

Conduct informational interviews

Set up 15-minute information interviews with people from your industry or with people with the same skills as you. Do so after you have done some preliminary research about these people and their background and experience.

Tell them why you admire their career history. Ask how did they get into this line of work. Find out about their insights into your industry or career.

Tell them that you are not asking for a job. These interviews will only take up to 15 or 20 minutes of their time. Always work around their schedule.

In particular, ask for their advice on how to get hired by an employer like the one they are currently working for. It could be your dream job employer!

Finally, do ask them to refer you to someone who they admire in their current organisation. You want to ask them about their success.

Constantly giving value to and serving your contacts when staying in touch

Once you have made the connections, nurture them. Constantly keep your name and brand on top of their minds by giving value to them. Unconditionally serve your contacts by giving them links to an article of interest when you email them.

As a professional, you can either curate and create content. Search the Internet for interesting articles. Write articles in your field or industry. Interview leaders in your field or industry.

Depending on your profession or industry, Facebook may be preferred over LinkedIn. Use whatever digital platforms where your contacts hang out on the most.

In summary, it’s now all about value creation

One of the most overused terms in the corporate lexicon is “people are our most valuable asset”.

If human resource is an asset, then the technical definition and the characteristics of an asset comes to mind.

  • An asset is a resource with an economic value. It will provide a tangible future benefit to the organisation. 
  • Return on assets (or return on investment) is a profitability ratio. It measures how well profits can be generated from an asset. 
  • Profit is financial gain. It is the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating, or producing something. For an employee, this is the difference between the value created and the salary received. To record a gain or a profit, the value created must be more than 140% of the salary received. This is after overheads, benefits and taxes are factored into the equation as an additional cost.

Equating human resources to an asset is, therefore, a very helpful way of thinking about employee value creation. Workers must create value for their employers to justify the salaries received. If workers cannot quantify and measure their work accomplishments and how much value they have created for their employers, then they are just a commodity that can be easily traded base on price. They are competing on price with other job seekers, not on value. When this occurs, there is NO job security. There is job security when high-performers compete on value!

Commodities are generally traded for the lowest price. Work will, therefore, go to someone who is the cheapest in terms of salary received. They may even do the work faster especially if they are younger. This is where older workers can be discriminated against, unfortunately. 

Under the ‘old’ paradigm, many employees think that they do not have to ‘earn’ what they have been given. They feel entitled to their salary because of who they are as employees. Or even how long they have been working there. They don’t have to justify the real cost of employing them.

The ‘new’ or contemporary paradigm will require employees to quantify and justify their work and accomplishments. This is where Numbers = Results = Value. 

Employees have to create more than 140% worth of value for their employers to justify or cover the cost of their salaries and wages plus other costs. 

In essence, employees have to generate a ‘profit’ for the business.

If an employee is receiving $100,000 per year in salary, then he or she must be able to create value equal to or more than $140,000 per year for their employer!

By thinking value-creation, workers can shift their entitlement paradigm. They can remain employable and be job-ready. They can compete with other job seekers and employees based on value, not on price. They can become ‘indispensable’ and remain employable as a valuable or critical member of the team.

In a post-pandemic world, we need many value creators or high-achievers who can justify their existence and keep businesses alive!

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