Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Layoffs: Pushed out of the Nest

Most of my posts encourage those within Corporate America to be proactive in taking steps towards entrepreneurship if that is in fact a long-term goal. Within the fabric confines of your cubicle, you will not intersect the sphere of small business unless YOU take steps to do so. For many, however, the new reality is a rude awakening to the fact that corporate jobs are not as safe and cushy as one might think. Laid off employees are also made harshly aware of the lack of support from empty tools such as COBRA.

There's a broad set of implications to consider at this point for those who have been kicked out of the corporate nest. For example, absolute income needs, severance, and health insurance options (unsolicited advice: dental insurance is a racket!) can be decisions that lop off entire branches from your decision tree. Beyond the objective set, there is the subjective "what do I want to be when I grow up" questions to consider given your new "opportunity."

There are plenty of sites and people to give you more than enough advice on managing your job search, but I suggest you specifically consider an approach that incorporates what I broadly define as small business. Many view this path as too risky or beneath a Corporate America gig. I find these to be short-sighted arguments. You've just had proven to you that Corporate America is not the land of lifetime employment, and you are likely to find a crowded field competing for the next corporate opening.

Spend some time and energy outlining a plan for small business. The three most important things are networking, networking, and networking. You should have more meetings at Starbucks and Panera than you even thought possible. (Entrepreneur secret: It's called Panera Bread, but their bakery stuff really isn't very good ... but it's worth it for free wifi.) Informational "cup of coffee" meetings can lead in directions you never envisioned. I hazard to guess that you will find the conversations stimulate a part of your brain that you forgot you had.

Once you have that ball rolling, look for ways to be creative in your approach. Work in smaller businesses can take a variety of shades. You won't find job postings and interviews conducted in a traditional or consistent manner. Get used to it and leverage that! It puts you on more equal footing than an interview for a job that tends to give the company the upper hand. Instead, you can identify ways to work together on projects, hourly basis, etc.

It's not all sunshine and roses, and it can be time-consuming. I merely encourage you to consider the options you have in front of you. Be realistic about those options. Assess your position and then move aggressively. I will remind you too that any step in the general direction of your goal is better than where you started. Avoid the trap of developing the perfect plan to reach an overly-defined goal. And good luck.

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