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Have You Been Fired? Laid Off? No? You Will Be!

It's true. Things have changed. You need to know the 3 Keys to Taking Control in this wildly-changing job world.

2.6 million were laid off the past three years, 600,000 in 2003. The most mass layoffs in history occurred in January 2004. 2004 saw more mass layoffs than any previous year. Manufacturing jobs are down from 21 million in 1980 to 14 million today. As an example, Levis closed the last of its 63 plants in this country. So that most American of icons-Levis-are now only made offshore.

Think you're not at risk? Economists say that 75% of those who have jobs now are at risk of job loss because they work in the 5 industries undergoing what they call "creative deconstruction"--or down-sizing, right-sizing, outsourcing, and off-shoring. Those 5 industries are Airlines, Communications, Finance, Manufacturing of Electronics, and Technology. That's a lot of the economy.

You Need the 3 Keys to Taking Control

1. Take Care of Yourself by Taking Control of Yourself

2. Take Control of Your Finances

3. Take Control of Your Careers

It doesn't matter if your CEO makes mistakes and flies your company into the ground, it doesn't matter whether his bonus is tied to cost-cutting, so he sells your job to India, and it doesn't matter if the cause of the problem is that your company's chief competitor is Halliburton, things have changed in the job world and your job is at risk.

It's been said that if you work in an office you are at risk. 14 million jobs are expected to be sent offshore in the next decade. People entering the job workforce today can expect to have 8 careers. Not jobs, but disparate careers, with separate skill sets.

You need to be prepared. My book, FALLBACK POSITION, Preparing a Contingency Plan for the Worst Case Scenario, gives you the 3 Keys to Taking Control, so if you do lose your job, it's not devastating to you and your family. And the 3 Keys allow you to take control of your future careers too.

The 3 Keys to Taking Control

1. Take Care of Yourself by Taking Control of Yourself

You're going to have multiple careers, so you first need to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and you need to relate those to what you want to do, how hard you're willing to work to get to do it, and are you willing to move to do it? And you need a game plan. Continuous life-long learning is necessary in today's world. At a minimum you should learn one new computer program and one new human relations skill every year. Learn them well enough to teach them. Then if you have specific interests, define those and work on learning those, strengthening your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses. Become a value-added employee where you are, so you're the last one tossed off the lifeboat, but work on finding the job you really want for your next move.

Many people are laid off, immediately panic, and run out and take the first job they can get.

* Usually in the same field from which they were fired or laid off.

* They don't take a break and think about what they want.

*They don't strategize about how to get what they want. You need to.

Take control of yourself to take care of yourself. Do the self-analysis exercises as I suggest in the book, FALLBACK POSITION. Find out who you are and what you want to do with your life. That's taking control of yourself. Don't just let things happen.

It will make you feel good to know you've prepared and you've taken care of yourself and your family.

2. Take Control of Your Finances.

Be prepared by building a layoff budget. Know what you'll get for severance, if anything. The average is 1 week per year of service. But the rule of thumb for getting a job is 1 month per $10,000 of salary. So if you've worked five years and make $50,000, they might pay you for 5 weeks but it will take 5 months to find a job. You need to fill that gap. Know how much unemployment will pay. Financial Planners advise to have 6 months salary in savings. That's hard to do. But if you know your severance and unemployment, then the gap is something less than 6 months' pay. You need to know what the company policy is. Same for health insurance. It can cost $8-10,000 for premiums on your own. Find out the company policy.

If they offer less than what you need, negotiate with them for more. You're not being fired for bad performance, it wasn't your fault the company was flown into the ground. You were loyal, you need them to be loyal to you. Guilt them. Guilt is a powerful negotiation tool. Don't be afraid to ask. What are they going to do to you for asking? You've already got a pink slip. Don't worry they won't give you a good recommendation. They know that if they give you an incorrect bad one, you can sue for defamation, and get much more than severance.

When Ray Buford was laid off from his job in Denver, by his old curmudgeon of a boss, he was offered six months severance and COBRA health insurance, meaning 18 months. Ray went to him and said, "Boss I've been a good and loyal helper, made you a lot of money, and I have two teenagers. At my level I need a year's severance and insurance for two years."

The old man looked at him and said, "Son, that reminds me of the story of the man who asked his wife what she wanted for her birthday, and she put down her book, looked at him and said, 'I want a divorce.' The man let out a sigh, saying 'Woof. I wasn't planning on spending that much.'"

Ray gave a courtesy chuckle and said, "That's a good story, boss, but I was hoping this 'divorce' would be a friendly one."

With that code word 'friendly' meaning 'without lawyers', Ray got his extra severance. So don't be afraid to ask and to persuade.

Include your family in this layoff budget, because if you have teenagers and you have to take the cell phones and internet away, they're not going to be happy campers. You probably won't take them away, because those are tools for getting another job, but you might reduce costs, and the family needs to be involved and know what the situation is.

Having a layoff budget puts you ahead of most of the workforce. Planners say only 30% of the people have a financial plan, and there aren't 10% who have a layoff budget.

You'll know the answers to the key questions before they're asked. That will make you stronger. Knowing the financial approaches you'll take from FALLBACK POSITION and working through them will help you and your family feel good about whatever happens and you'll be in the best position to survive and prosper in today's crazy job world.

3. Take Control of Your Career(s)

The worst case scenario is losing your job unexpectedly in a tough economy. But if you have a contingency plan, it will make you feel good that you've protected your family financially and emotionally. Job loss, the psychologists say, is like a "little death." You go through the same grief stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Having a Fallback Position helps you and your family members get through the stages to acceptance quicker.

Being prepared also makes you a more confident, and therefore a more competent employee. It might make the difference and make you the most value-added and least likely to be tossed off the lifeboat.

Get what you want in the next job. Chances are good you don't want your last job again. (1) 50% of the people employed want another job; (2) You're not the same person you were when you took the job, are you? You've changed. So why would you think you'd want that job again? (3) Take the time to figure out what's right for you now.

Target the career that gives you the rewards you want. Learn what you have to do to get that job. Learn where. Then do it. Study and plan negotiations, including severance, for your next job. It's your friends who hire you, but that's not who lets you go. Negotiate with your friends. Get your OUT package on the way IN.

John E. Arnold is an author, speaker, and consultant, following 30 years of leading organizations with 300 to 1300 employees and winning awards for training, planning, management innovation, and creativity.

John E. Arnold is the author of Anyone Who Can Be Fired Needs a FALLBACK POSITION, Preparing a Contingency Plan for the Worst Case Scenario. Buy it today and get prepared.

Arnold also offers private consultation and advice on specific situations. Contact him by email at

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