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Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Warning Signs of Career Disaster

Many of us experience recurring dreams. Mine is that I'm driving down the freeway and I can't read the road signs until I'm right up close. By then, it's too late: I've missed an important exit. Fortunately, it's just a dream. I wake up and all is fine. Unfortunately, many people have trouble reading signs-not road signs, but career warning signs.

A career warning sign is any change that indicates possible career disaster that could result in finding one's place in the unemployment line. While warning signs may vary according to employment situations, there are four basic warning signs that apply in most employment scenarios.

Warning Sign #1

Your industry is experiencing a downturn. Telecommunications is a perfect example. A few years back, telecom was one of the fastest growing industries. Recruiters worked day and night to fill telecom positions at all levels. The first negative indicator was unmet earnings expectations. Those who paid attention left the industry. Persons who practice career management watch the growth trends within their industry and know to leave ahead of the crowd.

Warning Sign #2

Sales are down in your company. While not everyone within an organization is involved with sales, all jobs are affected by sales levels. When revenues decrease, profits are held steady by cutting costs, which often means cutting jobs. Persons can protect themselves by paying attention to sales levels within their organization.

While not all employees are privy to sales numbers, there are ways of finding pertinent financial information. Public companies must publish financial statements. It pays to take the time to study these documents to uncover your company's basic financial status.

Employees of non-public companies, even without the benefit of public financial information, can also read the signs of declining sales:

* Work load decline
* The boss suddenly seems concerned over small costs, like office pens, copier paper, etc.
* The sales manager was just fired
* The sales department is going through reorganization

Alert employees are sensitive to such indicators. They keep their resume updated at all times and cultivate a growing professional network for potential future job leads.

Warning Sign #3

Management changes. Any management change has the potential to damage your corporate position. Be watchful during:

* Mergers and acquisitions
* String of short-term management tenure (e.g., three bosses in two years)
* Retirement or replacement of senior management

Wise employees listen closely to new-management rhetoric. How dramatic are his/her promises to shareholders? What is the newboss' track record? Does he/she have a reputation as a reactionary, axe-swinging job cutter, or as a strategic long-term planner who views employee reduction as a last resort? The first announcement of new management is the time to cautiously explore outside options.

Warning Sign #4

You've lost favor with your boss. While "gut feelings" are oftenthe first warning, some objective indicators are:

* A less-than-exemplary performance review
* No performance-based salary increase
* Your year-end bonus was much smaller than expected
* Your input is not requested at planning meetings
* Your suggestions are ignored

If you sense your position on the corporate totem pole is falling, trust your gut. When jobs are at stake, yours will beone of the first sacrificed. These warning signs may seem obvious but are often sadly ignored by those who fear change. Rather than take action, they lean on false hope that loyalty to the employer will pay off in the end. Those who practice career management never confuse company loyalty with aversion to change. When career warning signs appear on the horizon, pick up your binoculars and read the signs clearly so that you're ready forthe next appropriate exit.

Deborah Walker, CCMC Career Coach ~ Resume Writer Visit her on the web at: www.AlphaAdvantage.com

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