Guest post by Lara Quentrall-Thomas, CEO of Regency Recruitment & Resources
I get it. The economic climate we’re in can be a bit scary. Some days you’re not even sure you know how to protect your job. Not sure you have the skills to survive the downsizing, the restructuring.
People aren’t spilling their business all over Facebook because they’re embarrassed. But I bet you personally know people whose job is in trouble one way or the other on this island where everyone swears God is a Trini.
The way I hear it — and my sources are quite reliable — these days every company is paying close attention to the numbers.
They are asking themselves a few times whether they can afford everything from new hires to upgraded offices and machinery to current employees who don’t deliver significant, measurable value.
Because when it comes down to it that’s what bosses need from employees —significant, measurable value — and if they’re ever looking to reduce numbers when the economy slows they will try to hold on the people who add the most value.
So how do you protect your job in that kind of environment?
Well, I can tell you the surest way to NOT protect yourself — do nothing.
Just go on believing that there’s no way you could lose your job and see where that gets you.
Just carry on with the culture of entitlement where you expect a high-paying job to be waiting the day you graduate.
Refuse to gear up to where you’re more competitive, where it’s harder to get fired and see if your job is safe.
Trust me, I’ve been in the recruitment business long enough to say this —it’s not.
No job is safe unless it’s one you created for yourself, and even then you need a fair amount of luck.
Even in industries like retail where the downturn appears to have had considerably less direct impact, every employee in Trinidad and Tobago must take stock of where they are and where they want to be.
And if you want to not just survive this economic cold shower but thrive in it, you have to start thinking differently about your work.
In other words, it’s time to get serious about your career.
As chief executive of Regency Recruitment for the past 20 years I’ve seen hundreds of people get retrenched or fired.
And almost every single time they’re taken completely by surprise.
I’ve lived through quite a few economic slowdowns. I have a clear sense of what employees need to do in a downturn.
1. Be The Best You Possible
Want to make your job truly recession-proof? The first thing I would say is that you really have to become the best version of yourself at work.
You have to become the employee the company cannot imagine themselves without, so you are the most punctual, the least absent, the most engaged, you volunteer for projects, for new assignments, to learn new software.
Whatever the company is sort of throwing around, you make sure that you’re in front of the line wherever possible.
So that when or if they ever get to a place where they are having to make a list of employees to cut, it’s hard for them to cut you because they value you so much.
We have to move to a place as employees where we truly are cherished by our employer.
So that’s the first thing to do. Make that commitment. Be on time, be early, be seen to be productive, going above and beyond for the customer, for the manager, for the team.
That’s step number one.
2. Mind Your Business — Literally
The second thing is you have to become very aware of the industry you’re in, and a good example of why this is critical is what happened recently with ArcelorMittal.
I’m not saying that what happened wasn’t terrible for the workers — it was — but anybody working in the steel industry could have seen the writing on the wall.
For the last 18 months steel companies around the world have been closing down because of cheap steel from China.
So you have to be vigilant. What is happening in your industry?
Obviously if you’re in the energy sector or related energy services, your sector is probably the most vulnerable at the moment because of what’s happening with oil and gas prices.
But everybody who’s connected to the energy companies is going to be affected.
You need to understand the business that you’re in, the company that you work for, where your job might be vulnerable.
Who are its customers? What’s happening to them and how can that impact your firm? What’s happening globally with your industry? Regionally? Hemispherically?
Are jobs being moved to cheaper countries? Is that industry on the downturn? You cannot sit in a bubble and cry victim when you don’t know, when you haven’t informed yourself.
I’ve found over the years people are very myopic in terms of just seeing what’s happening locally. There are exceptions, of course, a lot of professionals, even millennials who are very connected, very aware of what’s happening.
But if you’re not already reading about your industry you need to start doing that.
3. Prepare For The Worst
And then the third thing, of course, is to prepare for the possible outcome of retrenchment and downsizing. To prepare is to face reality head on.
Whether that means you will need to get some new skills or whether it means something else, the point is you prepare for the worst.
Look at what sectors are growing, what sectors may be hiring people. Do you have skills that could transfer into those sectors?
If not could you acquire some skills and some training? Do some short courses? Start a new programme?
You also need to start networking early. You need to be out there networking within your discipline and getting outside of your network to Chambers of Commerce and so on.
It’s about talking to people, getting information, letting people know you’re available for a job or project or consultancy.
And, of course, you must make sure your résumé is up-to-date and all your certificates are ready, so that if and when you have to go for an interview you’re fully prepared.
It cannot be that you lose your job tomorrow and you’re now putting your résumé together. Everybody on this island now should have their résumé ready to go.
That means carving out some time with your graphic designer pal to come up with a fresh look for your résumé.
That means asking for help without reservation to have the thing copy edited, because you understand how easy it is for HR managers to dump an application filled with typos.
This is your future we’re talking about, not someone else’s. This is how you pay for the good things you want out of life, how you drive that new car, the launchpad you’ll need to save the money to start your own business. This is for your kids.
So get into higher gear.
Your future is worth saving.