Monday, February 9, 2009

AFTER THE PINK SLIP

You received the notice that your services are no longer needed, now what.

Experts point out there are five stages of grief.
  1. Denial. "This can't happen to me". "I am too valuable of a worker". Anything that causes you not to accept or even acknowledging the loss.
  2. Anger. "I am going to sue", "They think they can fire me, just wait". "You will here from my lawyer".
  3. Bargaining. You will see many people turn back to the God of their youth. "If you get me out of this God, I will return to church." This is the time a person suffering a loss wants to make a deal. Begging, wishing, praying for a return of the job is common.
  4. Depression. This stage can be very dangerous. Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning. You get feelings there is no way out of the box you got your self in. Thoughts of suicide, revenge, fighting back, or getting in a corner in the fetal position race through your mind. This is where you belief in God is critical. No mater how bad things are, they are temporary. As a friend and pastor said to me, "They same God that give you success and allowed you the good things in life, will be by your side to get you out of your current situation.
  5. Acceptance. When you move away from the four items above, you will start accepting what has happened. You move past the "why" and try putting a plan together to turn what appears devastating to something "Good".

I don't know of anything that would have forced me back to starting my own practice again, short of the sudden job loss I went through. As I look back over the last nine years, I realize that God had a wonderful plan for my life. It most likely saved my life by reducing the stress that most likely would have ended in a fatal heart attack. It allowed me to spend my work day with my closest friend, my wife. Got my overhead low, so when the depression came in 2009, I was positioned with a source of income with a low overhead. God has been vary good to me.

One of the things that got me off center and moving was reading "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson. Here is a short "You Tube" review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwavPPNgbjw

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sudden Job Loss? Forced or Early Retirement?
Change in Management Style?
Downsizing? "You're Fired."

Do any of these words create a sense of worry, anger or fear? If it does then this page is for you. If they don't, then you should bookmark this page, because sooner or later you are most likely going to need it. It is in times of sudden change that we can either be crushed or we are given the opportunity for greatest personal and professional growth.

This part of my practice is my ministry. I will not make money from people when they are down and out. Let me know how I can serve you if you suddenly lose your work.

What is causing this problem?

While everybody seems to have a theory about the cause, the consensus seems to settle on a few that most agree on.
  • The economy is shifting more toward technology and service and moving away from manufacturing.
    Global competition. (Competition for jobs is no longer competition from a store down the street or even competition from a store in another state, but competition from vendors around the world.)
  • Individuals fail to recognize that change is taking place and their need to rapidly adapt to the new demands. Resisting changes seldom helps but can many times be fatal to careers. (Frankly the world does not care what we think or our opinion or how we feel about something. It will reward those that can catch on fast and change directions quickly to seize new opportunities that change will bring.)
  • Huge changes in technology – especially computers and telecommunications.
  • Companies, while focusing on the bottom line, have lost sight of their social responsibility to society and their workers. Where companies use to provide all kinds of outlets to build community and employee loyalty, now the focus is on stock options, the price of the stock, return on investment, and similar indicators. This should not surprise anyone. Behavior will almost always chase the money. If an executive compensation is $400,000 in salary and $ 2.5 million in stock options, what are the chances of him/her making a decision that could cause the price of stock to falter. One of the most serious mistakes workers make today is in believing that their employer will look after them and their career. Employer loyalty is almost nonexistent except maybe with the small family owned business.


How widespread is this problem?


Fortune magazine in the February 5, 1999 issue stated that "Companies announced the elimination of some 600 ,000 U.S. jobs last year, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm that tracks such depressing data".


One article talked about 50,000,000 people will be working out of their homes by the year 2000.


In a teleconference that was fed by satellite all around to world, Tom Peters, the passionate futurist, talked abut major industries like banking, auto sales, travel agencies, and accounting facing major layoffs and radical changes. In a talk to HR executives on November 11, 1999 he stated that "in the next five to ten years 90% of all white collar job will be gone or so totally reconfigured that they will not be recognizable"


Just read the paper and keep track of the huge job losses. It is not only the loss of jobs, but also the downsizing of workers classifications. Going from an executive to a line worker. If you think about it, how do salaries keep from going out of sight. If a person started at a minimum wage job say $5.00 per hour at eighteen years of age, got a 5% salary increase until they turned 65, they would be making 49.53 per hour. That is a yearly salary of over $103,000 but still doing minimum wage work.


Counselor Dottie Periman, who heads Dynamic Pursuits, a career coaching firm in Potomac, Md., has created a comperhensive transition framework for job loss based on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's 1960 classic "On Death and Dying". A Synopsis:


Equilbrium. Everything's OK. Your future looks bright
Dental. Things are changing but you won't admit it.
Equilbrium. Feeling out of control.
Dental. You try to get thinks back to the way they were.
Anger. Feeling out of control
Bargaining. You try to get things back to the way they were
Chos. You feel powerless
Depression You're drained of engery spent creating and maintaining defense mechanisms. Resignation You've worked through depression and come to terms with the reality of change. Openness Your energy level is headed up.
Resignation You've drained of energy spent creating and maintaining defense mechanisms.
Openness Your energy level is headed up.
Readiness You have emotionally let go of the past.
Re-emergence You've cleaned out your emotional closet, and you're channeling your energy in a totally positive direction.

How do I meet the challenge?


Recognize that you are vulnerable.

  • It will do you no good to become bitter and angry about what is happening. Anger can actually become your worst enemy. You will waste precious resources the longer you sit on the pity pot. You will waste time, emotional energy, and can actually reduce chances for finding a new job by what you say and do when you leave your old employer.
    Anger, grief and a huge feeling of loss in normal. Depression is very common and sometime professional intervention is needed to get us back on track. What is NOT helpful is to act on our anger. No job or employer is worth going to jail over. What that will put you and your family through is unthinkable. Dr. Schuler has a famous quote that goes, "Tough times never last but tough people do". Say that to your self over and over. If you have problems with anger management, get professional help immediately do not put it off one minute more.

Become a quick-change artist.

  • You need to know that resistance to change is almost always a dead-end street.
  • Mobility, not mourning, makes you a valuable member of the group.
  • Shoot for rapid recovery


Commit fully to your job.

Accept ambiguity and uncertainty.

  • People who have a high need for structure simply hate this kind of situation.
  • A rapidly changing world deals ruthlessly with organizations that don't change.
  • Create role clarity for yourself.
  • Show initiative in getting your bearings, and in aligning your efforts with the organization's larger plan.


Behave like you're in business for yourself

  • Organizations are breaking in bits and getting flatter.
  • The move is towards small scale, decentralized business units.
  • Organizations are trying to become more entrepreneurial.
  • Management ranks are shrinking rapidly.
  • Consider how you – personally-can help cut cost, serve the customer better, improve productivity, and innovate.
  • Operate as if you're self-employed, and carry personal responsibility for your own career mobility.


Stay in school

  • Today's world takes no pity on the person who gets lazy about learning.
  • Some careers don't even get a chance to change – they simply disappear.
  • Constantly retool yourself.
  • Homework – studying on your own – should become a regular part of your weekly routine.
  • Volunteer for understudy or apprentice assignments that let you learn from experts.
  • Take lateral moves that will broaden you.
  • Ask for learning opportunities, and milk them dry.
  • Defend your career by developing a better package of knowledge and skills than the next person.

Hold yourself accountable for outcomes.

  • Careers simply carry more personal exposure these days.
  • Holding yourself personally accountable for outcomes requires that you think broadly.
  • Learn to work across departmental boundaries.
  • Avoid turf issues.
  • Concentrating on outcomes will also keep you from falling in love with a particular methodology.
  • The more intent you are on achieving the targeted outcomes, the less tolerant you'll be of clumsy or unnecessary work processes.
    So do your part. Drive the organization directly toward the outcomes that count the most.

Add Value.

  • Make sure that you contribute more than you cost.
  • Do not confuse longevity with loyalty.
  • We must realize, however, that w can use history to justify our continued employment for only so long. We still need to add value now.
  • You'll be better off if you think in terms of being paid for performance – for the value you add – rather than for your tenure, good intentions, or activity.
  • Add enough value so everyone can see that something very important would be missing if you left.

Set yourself as a service center.

  • Your job security depends on how valuable you are to your customers.
  • Keep in mind that there are "internal" and "external" customers.
  • Unless you take pains to provide the best possible service, and do so at a competitive market price (i.e. salary), you'll find it hard to keep customers.
  • The more you allow your service to go soft, the greater the odds you could end up in some downsizing statistics.
  • Customers are your only source of job security.


Manage your own morale.

  • If you put someone else in charge of your morale, you disempower yourself.
  • Organizations want employees who can cope with change without breaking stride.
  • Rapid organizational change guarantees us that almost everybody is going to carry some battle scars in the years to come.

Practice kaizen.

  • A strong organization is in the best position to protect your career.
  • Kaizen (pronounced ky'zen) is the relentless quest for a better way, for higher quality craftsmanship.
  • Kaizen keeps you reaching, stretching, to outdo yesterday.
  • Every single employee should assume personal responsibility for upgrading his or her job performance.
  • Your track record will help sell you.
  • It will at least be easier to resume your career in another setting.

Be a fixer, not a finger-pointer.

  • Problems are the natural offspring of change, so you'll see plenty of them in the years to come.
  • Build a name for yourself as a problem-solver, and you'll be a valuable person to have around.
  • Even when we find someone else to blame for our circumstances, we win a hollow victory. It may feel good for the moment to get ourselves off the hook, but it perpetuates the problem.
  • Instead of being a finger-pointer, assume ownership of problems. Let the solutions start with you.

The above brief outline came from a book by Price Pritchett "New Work Habits For A Radically Changing World" (Pritchett & Associates, Inc. 13155 Noel Road, Suite 1600, Dallas, TX 75240 972-789-7999 http://www.pritchettnet.com/). I would recommend getting this book.


What can I do to prevent or minimize the impact on my family and me?


Every family should have some form of home based business.

  • Investment advisers will recommend that you diversify your investments to reduce the risk of loss. The same advice holds true for job loss. This is particularly true if your spouse stays at home as a caregiver.
  • It is estimated that you need to plan, as a minimum, one month of job search time for each $ 10,000 in salary you need.
  • In the "Journal of Accountancy", February, 1999 issue, a survey showed that it will take between nine to eleven months for an executive to locate a job if they are over fifty years of age.
  • An established home based business will be of enormous psychological help if you face a sudden job loss. Time is your worst enemy. Get over the idea that some one will come and rescue you. That you will be called back to work after they find out how valuable you were to your organization. All these thoughts will work against you and you will lose precious time in finding that all-important next job.
  • Home based business take time to develop so make sure you start when you have a good job. Some will say that their employer's will not let them "moonlight" while they are employed. This can be a real problem. Will your employer give you a severance package that will give you that month for every $10,000 of salary that you need? Some will start a business that has nothing to do with their profession to avoid this conflict. Others will have the spouse put the business in her name.
  • Turn a hobby into a business. Also, network marketing is appealing to more and more professionals and others workers. This is due to better compensation plans, breakdown of the stigma of network marketing, the powerful leverage that one can have.
    Tax benefits.


Live debt free.

  • High debts that occurred prior to a layoff are devastating. It is a sure formula for family anger, guilt and financial ruin.
  • Most people can deal with the known but are put in disarray when things happen they feel that they have no control over. Many clients have come to me and said they had no idea that a layoff was possible much less imminent. The truth is they made a choice to purchase something on credit. A "cash only policy" is the only safe policy. Let me assure you that bankruptcy is much more painful then going without a purchase that will put you in financial bondage.
  • Write, call or e-mail me for a simple method on how to get out of debt in fairly short order.


Have a savings program.

  • A saving program that will allow for nine to twelve months of living expenses should be our first goal. This program should be larger as we get older.


Train for your next job at the expense of your present employer.

  • Look for trends and get in front of the next big trend in your profession.
  • Take any educational program offered.
  • Diversify to another profession. What would compliment your present job or profession but there is a niche that not everybody is doing. Get ahead of the next big shift.
  • Negotiate your next job so that the employer will pay for continuing education. You need to keep your certification up to date. If you are a CPA, but working in industry, keep you certification up to date so you could practice as a CPA if you need to.
  • Learn all you can about computers, computer networks, data bases, telecommunications.


Collect business cards and keep in touch with a network of friends.

  • Help others locate jobs. These contacts will be a real help if you need the favor returned.
  • Keep a handle on where jobs are being advertised for your professions.
  • Compare your resume' with others. If you see more and more applicants could take over your job, this should serve as a wake up call.


Buy key insurance on your own

  • This is a critical step. We are all vulnerable to job lay off. What you don't want to happen is lose your key insurance. In the period of employment you might become uninsurable and then when laid off you can not buy insurance at any price. The laws to protect the disabled are changing. Some times insurance companies will not write insurance, but the disease will not be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is the worst time to loose coverage. Keep your core of life, disability and long term insurance as an individual policy. Use your group policy to supplement the insurance that you personally own.


Look for a home based business that has some form of residual income potential.

  • If this business develops it can act like a disability policy, that is, you will be separated from the generation of income. Home based business take time and effort. Don't let anyone con you into thinking that it easy. Don't confuse simple with easy. Having given that warning, I still feel that every family need a job that they can't get fired from. Find the opportunity when you don't need the income rather then when you are desperate.


Invest time each day with your wife, family and your God. They will be by your side when your employer is long gone.

  • Relaying on your God is of utmost importance during a time of emotional need. This is a time where you will only be able to withdraw from you spiritual bank what you have put in.
  • My wife Chris gave me a wake up call one night when I came dragging in late after eighteen hours of work. She said something to me that I will never forget. She said "Honey, why don't you WORK HARDEST FOR THOSE THAT WILL CRY AT YOUR FUNERAL." Let me tell you from first hand experience, six months after you leave a job that you think they will never make it without you, you will hardly be remembered.
  • You will need the support of your spouse and children like you never have before. Don't expect them to come to you in your time of need if you have not built a quality relationship. Spend time with your family, they will be buy your side when your employer is long gone.


What can I do to prepare financially for these events?

  • If you do not have a close relationship with God do so today. A faith in a higher power and the love of your family is your best help in tough times.
  • See the prior section on Home Based Business, Living Debt Free, Savings, and Insurance.
    If you do not have a family budget, know how to prepare one and live by it, please contact me for help and additional information. Also, look on this web site for ideas on family budgeting.
  • High limits on credit cards can be used as a last resort for short term borrowing, assuming you will have the means to pay them off within a sort time.
  • Maintain a good credit rating. This will be a real help in times of emergency.
  • Be up front with your creditors. More credit problems come about because people ignore their creditors, not because they contact them early on.
  • Be honest in all things. This is no time for stealing, cheating or anything that will lower your personal integrity.


What should I do if I just lost my job?

  • Immediately stop spending money.
    Do you have an adequate savings account? Here is a rough idea of what it will take at a minimum. Take your monthly expenses times [your yearly salary / $10,000]). Let me illustrate. Let's say you're close to 50. You are making $100,000 and your monthly expense run at $ 5,000 per month. On average it will take (100,000/10,000) ten months to find equal work. Ten months times $5,000 means you should have as a minimum $ 50,000 in savings to cover your job search. This is why you must immediately start a savings program and cut expenses radically if you lose your job.
  • You might consider cutting out all repetitive expenses that is not absolutely essential.
    This means cable TV, magazines, club dues, and any non-essential expenses. Look for expenses that show up ever month or quarter.
  • Go through your expenses for the last year. Look for renewals that are several months away and contact vendor to see if there is a chance for a refund.
  • You need to do a complete cash flow analysis for the next twelve months.
  • You should start by making a list of all bills you owe and amount of each payment and when the payment is due.
  • Make a schedule by pay period of all your income.
  • Make a list by month of all your fixed expenses and payments. Things like your house payment, insurance, note payments and credit card payments.
  • Then budget by month for food, clothing, and the things you can not go without.
  • Come up with a cash flow difference. (Income over expenses or expenses over income)
  • Now plug in your savings and cash on hand and this should give you some target to shoot for on a monthly basis for the next year.
  • The strategy after you lose your job should be to conserve cash. Being out of debt is great, but you will probably feel better if you make minimum payments. Stop spending for anything except true necessities, and hold on to your cash. Resolve to yourselves that as soon as you get back to work, you will never be in debt, except maybe for your home.
  • If you need help on this please contact me and I will walk you through it.


Let as many people know, as soon as possible, that you need work. Your family, your friends on your Christmas card list, church members, the people that you have helped get jobs, the people that you have collected business cards from. Ask each of them to recommend five to ten people that they could contact for you. Follow up with a call to see if there is any interest. Then ask your close contact that if when they contact their five to ten business contacts, if these contacts would give them five to ten contact people that might be in the business or would have knowledge of somebody that might help. Mathematically it works like this. Say you have 200 close friends or business contacts. If they will give you ten names each and contact them for you, that will make 2,200 contacts. If each of these give you five additional contacts you could have 11,000 contacts. That is called leverage. If you have been faithful in helping others in their time of need, you can bet they will be more then willing to help you.


Contact educational institutions to see if a discount, scholarship, or extended payment plans are available. Private school is important, but if the child will be withdrawn if you have to move, friendships, etc. will be disrupted anyway. Many private schools will work with parents, but if not then maybe the church body or relatives can pick up the expenses for awhile. If this does not come through in my opinion public school should be used. Your kids and you will feel awful, but not paying your debts to the church body is worse.


Your two worse enemies to recover are depression or denial. Do not plan for a white knight to come riding in to save you. It most likely will not happen. Your faith in God to guide and lead you is imperative, but do not sit on the couch and think you faith will take the place of heard effort to correct the problems that got you fired or laid off in the first place.


Manage your own career. Manage the crisis. Look for opportunities that you never would have considered otherwise. In extreme adversity comes great opportunity for personal growth. Use you skills of management, like you would for a business, when you get back to work.


Above all do not lose faith in you. Men especially will do some crazy things in times of great stress. Buy items that are not needed. Dropping out of being responsible for their personal appearance, actions, etc. People that work with workman's compensation cases know all to well that if you do not get a worker back to work in days, they can get in a hole and not seek employment for years.


You need to analyze all expenses over the prior twelve months breaking all check into three categories.


Needs:

  • Food
  • Basic shelter
  • Transportation to work
  • Medical insurance and cost.


Wants:

  • Things that make life easier. Car vs. taking a bus.


Desires:

  • Luxury: Steak vs. beans and potatoes.
  • Private school.
  • Eating out.

This seems harsh, but believe me the faster you adjust your budget the better off you will be. It will take months to stop everything you have in the pip line let alone adding additional debt to maintain lifestyle.


It is a time in life where you are embarrassed and really down on yourself. Time is needed to heal some of these wounds. Sometimes we are to blame, other times there is nothing we could have done to prevent being laid off. It really does not matter, what matters now is getting back to work. The only thing we can control is how we will react.


There is a big debate if it is better to resign or allow termination. This is when good, competent, legal advice is needed. In most states if you voluntarily quit you will lose out in unemployment benefits. If you resign instead of being terminated, some states will allow you to claim benefits. Check with an attorney or your state unemployment office to see what standard is in place in your state.


Do this type of checking before this happens to you. Come up with a strategic plan when you feel very secure in your job. The reason for this is that when you get called in many times you have not a clue of what is coming. Generally you will be asked right there to decide. My best advice is to ask for two or three days off to look at your options. Many companies don't want you to do this because they know their risk of lawsuit's go up greatly.


Work with an attorney and accountant to come up with a game plan for negotiating your termination package. Some things you might want to consider are:

  • Stay employed and have two or three months to look for work. Some recent research has shown that executives will save a little less than two months in search time if you're unemployed than if you're employed. Others will say that you are more hirable if you're employed.
  • If you are thinking of going into your own business, go for a cash settlement with insurance benefits. If you are going to look for a similar type of work, probably stay employed but have unlimited release time to look for work.
  • Try to keep your medical benefits as long as possible. If company policy will only allow a limited time, see if you can buy in past the COBRA time limits. See if your insurance carrier will allow you to transfer the policy without a lapse of coverage.

Sign up for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. Rates vary per state. Let me assure you it is not going to be very much, but will help make the house payment.


Resolve not to take your anger out on you family. Unemployed people can be pretty miserable to be around. Work hard on exercise. Take aggression out on cleaning out the garage or take a long walk. Sell off surplus items. Stay busy. Get dressed for work in the morning. Have a daily plan. Set goals on how many letters you plan to get out, calls to make. Measure your progress. Treat searching for a job like a high priority, your carrier on the line, project. Bring the same discipline to finding a job, that you will bring to the work place when you find the job.


Find a trusted friend and be accountable to that friend for your daily activities. Give your friend you game plan and set up regular time to give a progress report. Treat these meetings like you will when you get back to work.


If you get a rejection for a job, ask the person interviewing you for a few minutes critiquing. See what you were week in and set about to change that weakness.


How can my belief in God help me?


The feeling of being all alone and that no one cares strikes you at the worst times. You want to scream at someone. You feel out of control. It is at this time in you life you will demonstrate to yourself and those around you if you really have faith in Christ or not. Yes, you will want to scream at God, but to the faithful person, deep down inside you know for a certainty that God is in control of this world, this situation, and more importantly, YOU. Put your trust in Him. My personal testimony is that when you feel that you can go no further, you're in a black hole, the sides are closing in. Stop, pray, commit your life to Him and know that God will place gates where He does not want you to go and stepping-stones where He wants you to step. Allow Him to set the pace and direction. This could turn into one of those experiences that you will look back at and know that God was closer to you than He has ever been in your life. May God bless and keep you through this time in your life.


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