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Patricia Kitchen Patricia Kitchen
Prepare for the Pink Slip Before It Comes


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October 7, 2001

HEY, YOU! YES, YOU -- the one hiding under the covers. We know it's scary out there in layoff land, but won't it be a whole lot scarier not to be even a little prepared should you be forced to join the swollen ranks of those already laid off?

So if you think there's a possibility you may be a target, let's use the present to do a few things that will put you ahead of the game if a pink slip does come your way.

Heed the advice of Catherine Keretsis, who until Sept. 28 was a marketing communications manager with iXL, a Manhattan consulting and services company. At the end of August, she got the word that her job would be eliminated, but she actually saw the handwriting on the wall much earlier. So each day she asked herself, "What can I do today to prepare?” Admittedly, she says, some days she felt empowered, while on others she just told herself, "Forget it!”

During her window of opportunity, she was able to broadcast her resume to her entire list of e-mail contacts, as well as print out contact lists and e-mail them to her personal account as a backup. She also started printing out examples of her work -- nonproprietary ones -- after a friend asked if she had a portfolio. This is a wise thing for anyone who needs one to have on hand and update frequently.

But she doesn't think she was letter-perfect. What does she wish she had done differently? For one thing, she wishes she'd paid more attention to the articles her mom in Charlotte, N.C., sent her, articles on what to do if a layoff looms. One key bit of advice: Cut expenses in order to save more money. Keretsis says she surely could have gone out to lunch with colleagues less often, eaten breakfast at home more often and opted for more subway rides instead of taxis. "Save, save, save,” is what she advises people in her shoes now.

And here's something else you'll probably be glad you did whether a pink slip comes next week or next year or even never: Add one more professional to your Rolodex or Palm Pilot. I refer here to a career counselor, life coach, or other career expert who will help you navigate this murky time and those that may lie ahead, assuming your employer is one that does not offer a generous outplacement arrangement. If you don't mind paying for such services, you can check out the Career Counselors Consortium at http://www.careercc.org/, which lists counselors in the tri-state area. Or check out the International Coach Federation at http://www.coachfederation.org/ (Whatever you do, ask for references -- and check them!)

If you're not able to pay, check out your college alumni association, public library or the many government-funded one-stop career centers that provide counseling, resume help and job outlooks. At least one such center is making it easy five days a week for those who are still engaged in the daily grind: The George A. Mason Employment Center at the Suffolk County Department of Labor in Hauppauge will stay open Monday through Friday until 8 p.m. -- at least on a trial basis for the next three months, says director Rick Hanse.

His advice, if you envision yourself wanting to change industries or functions, is to check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook, put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can catch it online at stats.bls.gov/ocohome.htm.

Here are a few more actions that career experts suggest:

Cozy up to "vector people” in your organization. These are confidants of those in power, and it never hurts to have a little inside information at times like these, says Marty Nimko, a career coach based in Oakland, Calif., who is co-author of "Cool Careers for Dummies” (Hungry Minds, $19.99).

Start thinking like a consultant, says Bettina Seidman, a career management coach in Manhattan. That means envisioning possible consulting assignments internally and, of course, externally with previous employers and vendors. That way you'll be closer to having at least some part-time work to tide you over as you conduct a job search. (She's putting on a program Oct. 30 in Manhattan on "Developing Career Resiliency -- Job Hunting in a Tight Market.” For more information you can e-mail her at SEIDBET@aol.com.)

Take advantage of all the internal training you can get, says Jane Cranston, a Manhattan executive coach and psychotherapist, "on their time.”

What this preparation is all about, says Hanse, is lessening the "brutal psychological blow” of a layoff by getting yourself ready, "so you don't get caught high and dry with no game plan at all.”

READERS' ISSUES -- Write to me at Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, N.Y. 11747-4250 or send e-mail to kitchen@newsday.com .

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.


 
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