What do the most successful people in the world have in common? Most of them have been fired at some point in their careers. Seriously, all your heroes — Oprah, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, both Edison and Tesla — every artist, entrepreneur and mogul you admire has suffered from unexpected unemployment at some point in their careers.
Of course, if you’re just starting to realize that things aren’t working out with your present employer, just knowing that you’re in good company isn’t enough. What you need is a plan — just in case the seemingly inevitable occurs.
1. Start job hunting.
First things first: if you think there’s a chance you’re about to get fired, you need to start looking for a new job. This is a good idea even if you think you can salvage your position.
Say that you do straighten things out with your boss, start hitting your goals, or solve whatever other problem is putting you at risk: there’s still no such thing as job security in the 21st century — especially if you’ve already run into trouble with your employer.
Update your resume, brush up your social media profiles, and get networking. Best-case scenario, you may find a job you like a lot more than the one you’re afraid of losing right now, and solve a problem before it really starts.
There's no such thing as job security in the 21st century. It pays to be ready to job search.
2. Ask for your manager’s input.
If you feel like the boss is displeased with your work, the last thing you probably feel like doing is discussing it with them. But framed the right way, that conversation can be constructive. It might even save your job.
“Start by asking your manager to talk honestly with you,” advises Alison Green at Inc. “Tell him or her that you know you’re not excelling in the position-or if that’s not strictly accurate, that you know he or she isn’t happy with your performance-and ask what you could do to improve. Then — and this is key — ask for his or her honest assessment of whether you’re likely to be able to make the improvements needed to succeed in the job in the long run.”
3. Feel out the possibilities.
If the news is bad, don’t just absorb it and walk away. Use the opportunity to see if you can move on in a way that’s less stressful for all involved. Green suggests saying something like:
I appreciate you being candid with me. I wonder if we can make arrangements now to plan for a transition that will be as smooth as possible for both of us. I’m going to go on trying to do a good job, but knowing that you don’t believe a positive outcome is likely, it sounds like I should also start looking for a new position. If that’s the case, would you be willing to work with me while I conduct a job search? That obviously will help me, and it will give you time to search for a replacement and have a smooth transition, and I can be as involved as you’d like in bringing the new person up to speed.”
Generally, she says, managers will be relieved at not having to go through a termination process. I’ve had colleagues in this situation who were offered layoffs instead of a termination — a situation that still entitled them to unemployment.
4. Look for opportunities to boost your resume.
Even if you’re thinking mostly in terms of keeping the job you have now or making a lateral move to another organization, it’s important to keep learning. Check out LinkedIn profiles of people with your job title who work at other organizations. Do you see skills that you don’t have? Make a plan to add them. You might be able to do it for free with online classes or learn on the job through volunteering or consulting.
5. Do your best work.
It’s demoralizing to feel like you’re “in trouble” with your boss or in the doghouse at work. But don’t give up. Regardless of whether your efforts impress your manager, it’s important for you to feel like you’re doing your best work. That way, when you move on to a place that appreciates you, you’ll still have good work habits and self-respect.
6. Resist the urge to hide.
“Contrary to what some may think, if you feel your job is at risk, you won’t want to fade from view,” says Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, in an interview with Business Insider.
That means continuing to contribute to meetings and projects and remaining a visible part of the team. It also means continuing to participate in professional associations outside of work.
7. Cut expenses and/or boost your income.
If you think you might lose your job soon, you obviously want to set aside as much money as you can. If saving more with your current budget isn’t possible, and you’ve cut everything back as much as you can, you might consider freelancing, consulting or getting a side gig. As a bonus, the connections you make could help you land another job.
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