Author – John Rindy, MPH
“John (or insert your name here), today we need to let go of 350 people, and you’re one of them.”
Good morning! Welcome to the sound of being part of an abrupt reduction in force. One day you have a job, the next day you do not have a job. The way I see it, two things can happen from this point:
Option 1: You break into tears, wonder how you are going to pay your house payment, think about your kids and wonder how you are going to be able to afford Christmas, or soccer, or college or whatever. How will you eat? It is the worst day of your professional life.
Option 2: You gracefully leave your bosses’ office and pull out your “emergency 10″ list and you get the word out. After all, you have carefully and purposefully maintained your emergency 10 list and know that you will have a job within days or weeks at the latest.
Career gurus from Tony Beshara (maybe you have seen him on Dr. Phil) to Keith Ferrazzi (author of Never Eat Alone) each espouse some form an emergency 10 list, and so do I.
So, what is an emergency 10 list? These are the first 10 people you would call, if you lost your job today. Your emergency 10 list should not be people you call for a crying shoulder (see option 1, if you want to go down that pathway). An emergency 10 list is a list of 5 to 15 people, who have hiring influence, with whom you have remained in close contact over the past two to three years, minimally. Let me repeat. These are people with hiring influence.
Given the definition of the emergency 10 list, I need to overtly remove myself from any of my friends’ lists. While I do have a lot of career advice and can support folks in their strategic job search, I do not have immediate hiring influence. I cannot give anyone a job tomorrow. I use myself as an example of who not to include in your emergency 10. I can certainly help, because I know a lot of professional corporate recruiters, but I cannot give you a job (it doesn’t work that way at a state university). So let’s go back to the day of your job loss. Given the choice, would you rather call me, a guy who knows a lot about the job market and job search techniques or would you rather call someone who could say “You start tomorrow. Just be here at 8:00.” I suspect the latter sounds a lot better, and I am not the least offended by this.
I think it was Ferrazzi who said something like, and I paraphrase, “Your job security is proportional to the quality of your professional network.” Notice we emphasize “quality” and not quantity. Adding thousands of people on LinkedIn, as if it were a professional Facebook, is not what we are talking about here. You need to deeply know and stay in touch with between 5 and 15 people on an annual basis. Ways to stay in touch include:
- Take them for breakfast, lunch or dinner
- Take them for coffee
- Give them a phone call at a time when you know they will not be especially busy
- Send them a LinkedIn message at least twice a year, checking in with their family and career
- Send them a holiday card
- Invite a group of them to a dinner party at your house
- Comment on their Facebook postings in a positive way
- Invite them to a conference, a speaker, a concert or another appropriate event
- Get together with them over the holidays
- Invite them to a summer picnic or event
In any case, whatever you choose, it is important to make significant contact with your emergency 10, at least twice each year. So, make your list, and put these activities on your calendar each year or you will forget to do it. As you meet or chat with members of your emergency 10 list be sure to listen more than you talk. Ask them about their family and career. You will get all sorts of pointers if you just button up and ask question. Share advancements in your knowledge, skills and career succinctly but definitely share these tidbits, without bragging. Remain humble and respectful. If you are chatting by phone or social media, see if you can set up a solid date when you can get together in person; this is where deep relationships are forged. Oh, by the way, be sure to always have an updated list of the best way to get in touch with your emergency 10. That is really important!
If you are a little more introverted and not likely to have a major dinner party at your house, then err on the side of staying in touch with one-on-one coffee meetings or by using LinkedIn and other social media tools.
In any case it is your choice. Given an abrupt and unexpected job loss, you can be the person who breaks out the tissues and proclaims the worst day of your life, or you can be the person who picks up your list, and your phone and with tremendous confidence notifies your top 10 list that “I am officially on the market.”
It’s your future. Take charge!