You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to think about ‘Plan B’ when ‘Plan A’ is gone. It would be great to be with a company in a role with interesting and challenging work, good people and management, providing fair compensation and then be able to leave or retire on your own terms. However, that often is not the case. Companies get acquired, reorganizations happen, new management makes changes and outsourcing occurs.
Of course, these are bad scenarios that hopefully will never happen to you, but unfortunately, they do happen and they happen to good people. The point of this article is to give some hints on how to be ready and offer some ideas on things to do today to make sure you are valuable tomorrow.
First, keep your resume updated. Not that this has to be done annually, but every couple years take it out, dust it off and add your recent accomplishments. Make the descriptions action-oriented sentences, and avoid ‘I’. Keep the resume in standard Microsoft Word format without headers, tables or columns. Have your name, address and contact info at the top. Then have a ‘Summary’ of what you do and your expertise. Next is ‘Experience’ and list the company, duration and job title and/or role. Have a one sentence description of what the company does and if you are with a large firm, the group or division you are in. For each company and job, have bullet points to explain your accomplishments. If you are a manager, briefly explain what you accomplished in major projects. If you are technical, you can either list the tools/technologies in the bullets or have a ‘technologies used’ section at the end of each company/role. Last, list your ‘Education” and “Certifications’, if you have them.
If your career spans decades, you can drop the older than 15-year job details and just list the companies and/or roles. If you have been promoted, indicate that. You can leave out your college graduation date without issue, but list the degree and major/minor. Keep it to an overall resume length of 2 or 3 pages maximum. Nobody wants to, or is likely going to read beyond that. The resume is a summary and the objective of the resume is to get an interview.
LinkedIn has become a major player for recruiters as well as job seekers. Make sure your resume lines up with your LinkedIn profile and summarize if needed. Have a relatively current and professional looking picture with just yourself. If you are actively in the market, make sure you check the ‘open to new opportunities’ box in the profile. If you are looking, say what you are looking for in the LinkedIn summary. Even if you are not looking, or even thinking about looking, your LinkedIn should be up to date. It’s good professional business practice and even internal people will also at your LinkedIn prior to meeting. It has additional value in these days of remote work by providing some background prior to a Zoom, Teams or WebEx meeting.
In addition to LinkedIn, another job board is Dice, which is an old standby and still an excellent source, especially for contract positions. If you find yourself in the market, post your resume and make sure you refresh the Dice post every couple of weeks so your resume moves up to the top. Indeed is also a good place to post your resume, and if you want to cover all bases, post on CareerBuilder and Monster as well.
Hate to say this, but if you are a ‘Baby Boomer’ or older ‘Gen-X’er’ it could be especially tough to find a new job. Although it will never be said, age is a reality and so is being overqualified and having a potential employer think you will be bored. If you are in management, director or VP level, companies will often want to promote from within and show the internal team that there is a career path. Your network is key and the time to build a good network is when you are working, not when you are looking. Keep in touch with peers and managers when they leave your company (LinkedIn makes this easy to do), SIM is an excellent professional organization and AITP also offers the ability to connect and share ideas with peers. IC Stars offers training to inner city young adults looking to get into IT and is a good cause as well as an excellent networking option.
Additionally, and while you’re working, it is a good idea to keep your skills upgraded and often your current company will pay for continuing education. If you are technical, a certification in one of your primary skills offers credibility. If you are in development or infrastructure management, you are likely running projects all the time, so a PMP or SCRUM Master certification would be valuable. If you find yourself unemployed, be open to taking the contractor route. Depending on how senior you are, this may be your best option and project/program managers are often hired this way. Many of those roles can turn into full time as well.
The point of these musings is to just be ready. Hopefully, your readiness never needs to be executed, but it is always a good thing to have ‘plan B’ in your back pocket just in case…