Now is Not the Time to be Complacent in the Workplace
When you sit down and look at your finances you’re probably mostly focused on expenses and spending. How much money do you spend on housing, groceries, insurance, and even taxes? What is often overlooked is income. Without income none of the aforementioned items will even matter. Just like you can change your spending habits to reduce expenses there are things you can do to help you increase your income. If you are just doing what it takes to get by in your job you could be setting yourself up for fewer opportunities and lower income in the coming years.
If you aren’t regularly looking at your own job performance, skills, and advancement opportunities you are severely limiting your earning potential. This job market is competitive and if you aren’t living up to your expectations or find yourself in an industry that is declining it should be no surprise that you could potentially be without a job. When that happens you’re obviously dealt a devastating financial blow that could set you back years.
Start by taking a look at your job skills. Would you hire someone with your skills to do the job you’re doing? Are you current with computer and other technical skills required for your job? Do you need more training? Does your job require specific certifications? Your career isn’t static and the tasks you need to complete are always changing. Your employer will generally offer basic training required to do the job but above and beyond that it may be up to you.
Some employers even offer reimbursement for outside training so that is the first place to look. Other times it may be out of your own pocket so you need to consider the benefits of additional training. Would obtaining that certification or touching up on certain industry skills make you more valuable to the company? These small improvements to your skill set may be the difference needed to keep your job during a downsize or losing it to a new college graduate who is current with the latest skills.
This area can be a bit subjective but you should take an honest look at your performance. Put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes. What kind of review would you give yourself?
- Do you show up on time?
- Do you do all that is asked of you?
- Is your work completed by the deadline?
- Do you put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay?
- Do you cut corners?
- Do you like your job and does it show?
Job performance is more than showing up, doing what is required without messing up, and then going home. If you are familiar with the movie Office Space you probably remember the manager at the restaurant requiring the servers to wear a certain amount of flair on their uniforms. The manager regularly addresses Jennifer Aniston’s character for wearing only the minimum and encourages her to wear more like her co-worker. She later proclaims that if he wants everyone to wear 38 pieces to just make the minimum 38.
The point is that you can only do the minimum and still maintain your job, but is that really what you want to do? You don’t have to be over-the-top and obnoxious about doing more than the minimum like the waiter with a million of buttons on his uniform but your boss will notice if you do a little bit more than the minimum. At the same time you will also be noticed if you are known for just doing the minimum when the company is looking to cut costs or introduce new talent.
This one can be harder to examine but it is important to understand your true employment situation. Are you working in an industry that has been facing hard times recently? Are you in a rapidly expanding industry? Aside from the broad economic aspect take a look at your individual employer. Is the company operating at a profit? Is the company local, national or global? What are your chances of advancement within the company?
These questions can paint a picture of how secure your job actually is. Clearly there will always be unforeseen circumstances that can make even a seemingly secure job become obsolete, but by understanding where you stand can give you an edge in spotting potential troubles. This advanced warning can give you a jump start in looking for new opportunities in the event you do lose your job.
Have a Backup Plan
You need to have a backup plan in the event your source of income is drastically reduced or eliminated completely. What this means is to have a course of action established to minimize the impact of this situation as little as possible. The first thing you should be concerned with is your emergency savings. Ideally you would have enough money saved up to continue paying the bills for a few months with little or no interruption. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. If you don’t currently have an emergency savings I would recommend opening a free high-interest savings account today and start by funding it with just $25. Then, set up automatic deposits so that you can build up your savings without even thinking about it.
Next, have a plan for getting back to work as quickly as possible. Keep your resume updated. The last thing you need in the event of a job loss is spending the better part of a week trying to write a new resume and cover letter from scratch before even being able to apply elsewhere. Being prepared will allow you to get into the hunt for a new job as soon as possible. Not only that, but if it’s been a while since you last wrote a resume it can be difficult to go back and think about all of your past achievements and skills that you would want to list. So, if you regularly keep it updated you’ll be sure to include everything you can to make you look good to new employers.
Finally, it is important to maintain contacts. Keep the numbers of old co-workers or acquaintances that could have an inside track to open positions. These people could be your best resource when it comes to finding a new position. They know you and what you’re strengths are and can be great referral sources. Thanks to the power of the internet this is easier than ever before. One way you might want to start is by creating a profile on LinkedIn. This is a professional networking site where you can connect with old colleagues, classmates, and even post your resume and look for jobs. Remember, a lot of times it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.