How to Prepare for an Unexpected Job Change

At the age of 22, Nely Galan became the manager of a TV station in New Jersey. For three years, she gave herself completely to her job and believed that her employers were loyal to her. One morning she went to work and learned that the station had been sold, and her job was gone. She was devastated. In her memoir, Self-Made, Galan says that once her job disappeared without warning, she knew that she was responsible for her livelihood. She couldn’t rely on an employer.

Every week we learn that retailers are going out of business or laying off thousands of employees. For decades, employment with the government seemed to be a secure route. However, there are government furloughs, and many municipalities are reducing their work forces.

There is no reason to panic. However, we all need a plan B. What if the job goes away? What will you do? Here are some ways to prepare for an uncertain future:

1. Stay flexible. Don’t believe that you are limited to any profession. When opportunities come to try different skill sets, take advantage of them. If you’ve always dreamed of trying a particular job, you don’t have to quit your day job. Interested in owning a restaurant? Take a part time job at a restaurant. Go to chamber of commerce meetings and join committees so that you can confer with business owners. You can also try doing freelance work. You can freelance as a consultant, tutor, editor, writer, graphic designer or dozens of other professions. Visit for some ideas.

2. Know your strengths. What are you good at doing? What do you love doing? That intersection is the sweet spot and is probably what you should be doing for work. Maybe you’re really good with children and you love taking care of children. Perhaps you are an efficient administrative assistant, and you are delighted when your work makes your boss look great. Think of other industries that need your skill set. Set up a profile on LinkedIn so that you can stay current in your field and begin creating a network. Visit where you can take a free personality assessment. This test will show you where you are strong. Focus on building your strengths, not your weaknesses.

3. Know what you don’t know. Maybe you believe that the only way for you to earn a living is by working for someone else. I challenge you to learn about other options. Read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. There are strategies and case studies in this book that will show you new ways to earn a living. Even if you have no interest in entrepreneurship, this book will show you several methods to be a more valuable employee.

4. Sit and do nothing. Choose a quiet place to just sit and think for 30 minutes. This means no reading, listening to music or nagging children. During this 30 minutes, think about what you would love to do for a living. Consider the first step that you can take. Create a list of ideas and things that you can do while you’re with your current employer. Commit to doing at least one thing every week that gets you closer to a job that you will love.

5. Seek validation. If you don’t receive positive reinforcement in your current position, you need to seek it from other sources. Chair a committee at your church. Volunteer in your community. Everyone needs an external pat on the back. Consider Toastmasters, which is an organization that helps individuals to improve their speaking and leadership skills. Most cities have several clubs that meet before work, midday, after work and on weekends.

There are dozens of things to do to prepare for a job change. These five steps prepare you to obtain a better job, tolerate your current position a little longer or prepare to start your own business. How will you prepare yourself for an unexpected job change?

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