Surviving the recession with your career intact
Whilst we are yet to meet the technical requirements of a recession (2 consecutive quarters of negative growth) there is no doubt that the economic, and therefore career, outlook is bleak.
There have been redundancies across most sectors of the packaging industry and these look set to continue. Employees at all levels need to find and implement ways of protecting themselves and their careers from the economic downturn.
Clearly if your employer goes bust there is nothing you can do to keep your job, but even if your employer is able to weather the storm there may be redundancies. You must remember no-one is indispensable, so to insulate yourself from these threats you need to make yourself valuable, “the one worth keeping” or the most attractive applicant if you do have to find a new job.
First of all, employees at all levels simply have to acknowledge that the security and success of the business and its employees go hand in hand. So whilst I am not advocating employees become martyrs, working for nothing, or an epidemic of “presenteeism” I fiercely believe that everyone should think twice before spending or incurring costs – ask if it is really necessary. Beyond that employees need to consider how can I increase my value to the business?
- Think about the challenges facing the business; in a wider context. Packaging waste is and looks like remaining a major issue for the industry no matter where you are in the supply chain the more you can help address the issues the more valued you will be.
- Gain, maintain and apply “in demand” skills to make your employer think twice about letting you go. This is all about continuing professional development. From a recruitment perspective we seek shifts in skills / expertise that are in demand; for example there has been great demand for candidates with knowledge of compliance with regard to packaging waste and other legislation.
- Design for function and value not ego. Many pack designers will admit that often their new packs have “some nice to have” features. Of course some of these give genuine differentiation and are valued by customers but sometimes they are features that the designer just likes.
- Add value. It is easy to say “do a good job” if you want to stick around but that is very much a base line. You should be thinking proactively – how can I improve the product or process? How can I reduce waste or cost? Do it before you are asked and keep doing it.
Ultimately there are no guarantees in life so if you are in a position where you loose your job you must take a professional approach to finding a new role. The more professional you are the better your chances.
A professional approach to finding a new role goes well beyond updating your CV. Of course I would advocate that if you feel uncertain about your future it would be a wise move to update your CV before you have to; it will give you time to think about it properly rather than rushing one out when made redundant.
For a more professional approach to finding a new role you will need to consider what are the factors which make me attractive to an employer and what factors will cause an employer to have concerns or discount my application?
- You should have an up to date CV which has no gaps and actively sells you. By this we mean highlighting your value and achievement. If your CV reads “I was a packaging technologist and was responsible for packaging design and specification” it does nothing to promote of differentiate you. An employer will be much more interested in a CV which highlights the type of pack, for what market, the number of projects, the value of the projects and specific projects which have something special about them; either high profile products, technical novelty or a particularly large scale or rapid introduction. In all the employers needs a reason to pick you from the pile of CVs on their desk.
- Make yourself valuable. The factors that may make an employer reluctant to let you go will also make you attractive to a new employer so make sure you are adding value and gain in-demand skills and knowledge. In addition when applying for a role make sure you understand what issues the organisation faces and what factors will be of value to them; then make sure you highlight your skills and experience as it relates to those factors.
- Think of reservations the employer may have about you. Perhaps you have worked with different products in different markets or perhaps on a different scale. To counter these you need to consider, and research where necessary, the differences between your knowledge / experience and the role you are applying for. Once you understand the differences you can use your covering letter to explain how you could overcome them or why your skills and knowledge are transferable. Hence almost every application you send will be different and tailored to role and organisation applied for.
- Relocation. You could easily include the need for relocation is the list of reservations but in the current economic climate it deserves its own consideration. It is no longer sufficient to simply state whether or not you are willing to relocate; there are now more than ever practical considerations – often those who wish to relocate simply can’t sell their houses. We have had clients show preference to candidates who rent rather than with a mortgage as they perceive this to be a hurdle to relocation. If you will have to relocate and are willing to do so you should look into the practicalities of this. Do you need to and will you be able to sell your house? Can you afford housing in the area you wish to move to? Do you have a family to move? What are the implications for school age children? Would a weekly long distance commute be possible in the short or long term? Most of all you need to be able to demonstrate you have considered these points and have a plan to address them.
Even in good times employers often look for that something special or for a reason not to choose someone. In tough times this even more the case with potentially far more options than roles. Whether you are aiming to keep your job or find a new one you need to stand out as the “most valuable player” or MVP as Americans call it. Be professional, make sure you add value and bring something the employer needs; perhaps in demand skills or continuous improvement and you will have a much better chance.