WITH the recent downfall of some big banking players in the United States and Europe, the bleeding stock markets and worries of recession, the economic outlook is looking rather gloomy.
People are starting to worry about their jobs and how they will be affected by this period of uncertainty.
The fact is that, slowdown or not, companies have to keep on peeling lower-skilled staff as they restructure up the value chain to be competitive.
Facing a layoff is fast becoming a real prospect for many workers. In this changing job market, job security has already gone the way of the dodo.
To keep your job, you need to work smart, not just work hard. You will need to do whatever it takes to make sure you are crucial to your company.
You must also have a backup plan, in case somebody thinks you are not so crucial or efficient.
Here are some suggestions to help you cope well with organisational change and increase your career advancement potential:
1. Keep your eyes and ears open
Be aware of what is happening in your company. Hiring freezes, early retirement schemes and other signs of what is called "managed abrasion" are indications that your company is extremely serious about head count.
Look for other warning signs. For example, how are the company shares doing?
Remember, while downsizing may be a bad word for workers, investors see it as a positive signal that the management is cutting costs.
Keep up-to-date with possible mergers involving your company.
When a merger happens, it is often good news for the company and bad news for half the employees.
2. Know that it can happen to you
It is amazing how many people just sit back and wait for the axe to fall. They do not see it approaching and do not prepare for change.
Many people assume that retrenchment will never happen to them because of their long service and value to the company.
Make sure you do not fall into this trap or else you could end up being unprepared to survive economically or professionally.
Remember, no matter how much your boss likes you, it is the bottom line that may ultimately decide your fate.
3. Look for new opportunities
Do not be complacent. You are in charge of your own career.
Regardless of how secure you may be in your job, you always need to be prepared to look for work in a volatile business climate.
Even when you are working, you should stay tuned to developments in the job market. Now is the perfect time to do some research.
Keep reading the recruitment advertisements for your industry. Look for jobs in your field and see if the requirements listed are skills you possess.
Network regularly to make new contacts and gain valuable information.
Meet headhunters. Better still, sign up for online services that will keep you informed of new job opportunities at no cost at all.
4. Keep learning and updating your skills
A well-known professor says that only three things matter in the new economy: skills, skills and skills!
The skills you have today may not be needed in a few years - or even a few months - so start learning new ones.
Take advantage of your company's training programmes or those funded by government agencies and external service providers.
5. Always have a backup plan
You may consider starting your own part-time business during your full-time employment. In a way, you are building a safety net to safeguard yourself if anything happens to your job.
6. Check your financial situation
If the worst happens, and you do lose your job in a retrenchment or restructuring exercise, one of the first things you need to do is to analyse your financial situation. Look at your resources and expenses. Check your contract to make sure you get the benefits due to you.
7. Make sure your resumé is constantly updated
Document your work and achievements regularly because you will forget how significant much of your work is.
Keep these achievements both in hard- and soft-copy formats. Many online job sites, in fact, will allow you to store, edit and forward your resumé to prospective employers.
Finally, remember that life goes on. Losing your job may shock and depress you, but you have to move forward - and the sooner, the better.
Believe it or not, losing a job can actually offer you an opportunity to do something different that you never had the courage to do while you were employed.
And there is always the chance that you will find a job that is just as good, if not better. In fact, if you have already prepared for this event in ways suggested by this article, you probably will.