From: Information Outlook Column (Jan/Feb. issue), Due Dec. 28, 2011
By Stephen Abram
It doesn’t work 100% of the time but you’ve probably noticed that there are some people that seem to survive every organizational restructuring. In this latest economic downturn we’re seeing layoffs and downsizing on a scale in all sectors that most of us have never seen. As for me, I’ve been through too many to count – survived some and didn’t make it out the other side on others. By some counts there have been over 14 downturns in my professional career since 1978. These swings in the economy have burnished me and, ironically, made me less dependent on employers for my self-worth or finances. The private sector reacts to protect the whole enterprise during the business cycle and, although we shouldn’t take downsizing personally, it’s hard not to! The public sector is arguably experiencing a major downturn with extensive layoffs for the first time in memory for many. I was inspired recently by an article that was shared with me (from Black Enterprise: “10 ways to make yourself indispensable at work”), so I’ve adapted its 10 points for library land, but the original can be read without translation too.
Is the grapevine working overtime in your business, industry, community library, school board or institution? What do the water cooler conversations resemble in your sector – excitement about the future or doom and gloom? Are you seeing terrible budget debates, revenue shortfalls, business disappointments, investment or trust fund losses, or shortfalls in taxation support? What can you do to reduce your chances of layoff? Barring situations of collective bargaining where the rules can be prescribed, there are things you can do and should do precisely when you don’t need it right away.
Make a plan. Assess your strengths. Define your value, and, most importantly tend to your personal and professional network.
What tactics can you accomplish that will reduce your personal chances of layoff or prepare you better to shorten your period of unemployment? Remember that this isn’t about protecting the ‘library’ but of communicating your value as a “librarian.” There is a big difference! Here are ten:
1. Take ownership of all your responsibilities by seeing your role in the context of the entire enterprise and community. What would you increase as an activity and what would you decrease? Employees that think strategically are more valuable than one-trick ponies.
2. Take personal responsibility for your professional development and career preparedness. In difficult economic times no one else will quickly step up to protect you or guide your career. In times of transition, individuals must be proactive and not look to an employer to prepare them for their next job. Indeed training and development budgets are usually one of the first to be reduced or eliminated. You might have to invest your own dollars and time in yourself for e-learning courses, training, association memberships and conferences but, still, fight to get your promised education reimbursements. The enterprise is not your mother and bears no responsibility to your progress. What key specific competency would make your more valuable to your current and prospective employers? Develop it.
3. Maintain a visibly positive attitude while protecting your job. It’s far easier for decision-makers to cut a Negative Nellie. You aren’t the only one who’s stressed by the economy. If you see others handling it better, model their behaviours. No one wants to be constantly reminded of the fact that everyone is now doing 2 or 3 jobs and extended effort. . When things seem to pile up and you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath and think that this is better for your personal physical and mental health. It’ll also allow you to keep wok relationships friendly and positive. Be the colleague people want to have lunch or a coffee with rather than avoid.
4. Become a Renaissance person. Yes, this means taking on extra tasks or spending personal time on events that can be great for the office culture – parties, birthdays, charity events, etc. Learn to do new things as other people leave. You gain new skills and you clearly increase your long-term value. You also gain a story about how you learn and adapt for interviews. Read the rest of this entry »