When the Axe Falls: 3 Tips to Prepare for Unexpected Job Loss


Prepared for cutbacks?


Unfortunately, Canada's healthcare and social programs are often the first on the chopping block when it comes to balancing the budget. With changes to provincial government on the horizon, there are job uncertainties ahead. Unexpected job loss is a stressful situation for anyone, and not being prepared for the transition can compound feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger.


Act now so you're not scrambling when the axe falls.


This topic is not fun to discuss, as we never want to imagine ourselves in an unexpected job loss situation. Thinking it through now however, will ensure you have a back-up plan in case your position is ever targeted for cuts. Getting prepared now doesn’t mean you have to start applying for jobs. It simply requires you to ensure your personal marketing tools are ready for action and your network is alive. Yes, it’s extra work, but it’s necessary to put in the effort.

Navigating a career transition will be easier if you’ve laid the ground work.


Here are 3 ways you can stay poised for unexpected change and layoff.


1. Document your achievements. Keep a folder so you can record your successes at work. You can also include any additional training you’ve completed and emails/letters from colleagues, patients, or clients that praise your performance. Celebrate your accomplishments - don't downplay them.


Having access to these accomplishments will come in handy! When it comes to composing personal marketing materials, your results will do the talking. If you don’t actively put your work impact down in writing however, it can be surprisingly difficult to remember what you’ve done in the past, especially if you’ve been in the same position for a long time.


Not to worry, if you haven’t been actively jotting down your career wins then there’s no time like the present to start! Conduct a writing exercise to get all your experiences out of your head. A simple and effective way to structure this process is to follow the SAR method detailed below.


Situation: Summarize a problem you encountered at work. What difficulties or restraints were you or your co-workers faced with?


Action: Outline steps you took to address the situation. Did you conduct research? Change a process? Train additional staff? Form a committee? Get specific about what you did to create change.


Result: Conclude with how the action you took made a direct impact on the organization. What were the positive outcomes that resulted from your effort? Quantify these changes whenever possible.


Have a friend at work? Start brainstorming together on your lunch break or during an afternoon off. If the axe never does fall, this exercise is still useful for boosting your self-confidence. You might even decide it’s time for a promotion!        


2. Update your résumé regularly. If it's been years since you've modified - or even looked at - your personal marketing documents, then it's time to reacquaint yourself with them. This is where you’re going to demonstrate your return on investment by highlighting all those great accomplishments you pinpointed in the exercise above.


When it comes to creating content for your résumé, there are specific sections that employers will expect to see. Although there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” strategy, here are some sections that you’ll want to include:


Headline. People are categorical thinkers so make it easy for them to determine where you’ll fit within an organization. Directly under your name and contact information include your position title such as “Registered Nurse • Advanced Wound Care Specialist” or “Registered Social Worker with 15+ Years of Mental Health Advocacy.”


Professional Summary. This is the Coles Notes version of your experience, qualifications, and skills. This can be in the form of a paragraph or a bulleted list. When done properly, this section should grab attention and entice a person to keep reading. Make the most pertinent and impressive information pop off the page by applying selective bolding and colour. Don’t be afraid to try incorporating branded statements, charts, graphs, or any other technique that visually represents the career you.


Keywords. Quite simply this is a bulleted list of hard skills to satisfy both humans and computers. Soft skills are important, but don’t include them in this section. Rather then list them here, you’ll demonstrate your “team work,” “communication,” and “adaptability” in the experience section of your résumé by pointing to specific examples where these skills were leveraged. Job-specific keywords are those tasks that you’ve been trained to do.


Career History. Most commonly this is done in reverse chronological order. Start with your current position and work backwards. The further back you go the less information you’ll need to include. Be as specific as possible by including the hospital floor you work on, the patient or client group you specialize in, and number of beds you oversee or clients in your case load.


Create visual differentiation between your daily duties and your accomplishments. Start each of your sentences with a strong action verb and try not to sound too repetitive. Dynamic writing engages the reader and holds their attention.


Education & Training. Show off those qualifications that you’ve earned. If you completed your training years ago then there’s no need to include dates. List any degrees, diplomas, certifications, courses, and training you’ve done that pertain to your field.


Technology. Consider the software you use for work. Technology has penetrated every corner of our lives, so it should also make its way into your résumé.


3. Nurture your network. Stay connected by sharing relevant information, scheduling calls and coffee dates, and attending events in your field. By having a strong presence online and in your local community, you’ll remain top of mind should your connections know of any job openings.  


Remember, professional relationships are a 2-way street. You get what you give. Provide support, advice, and guidance to your connections and they’ll likely return the favour when you need it.


Stay nimble! Of course, if you're having trouble navigating any of these steps on your own you can always reach out to me. 

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