Taking stock of your career, the kind of stock that’s still worth something

After a layoff is a good time to take stock of your career. The 2 questions to ask yourself are:

• What part did I play in this layoff?
• What do I really want to be doing?

You may think there was nothing you could’ve done about a layoff. And maybe you’re right. But some of your former coworkers still have jobs. Why were you laid off and not they? The bottom line is that you were more dispensable, for one reason or another. While nobody is indispensable, some people provide a function that is necessary for the company to survive, or at least are perceived that way. The trick to avoiding a layoff (I’m told) is to make yourself one of those people.

Unfortunately, if layoffs are looming at your company, then it’s probably too late to do anything except pray. The time to take action is when things are looking good. Raise your profile by volunteering for important projects. Be a team builder among your peers. Cozy up to the people who make the decisions. (Don’t be a suck up though, as this can make things worse.) If you’ve done these things, congratulations, your layoff wasn’t your fault. Pass Go and collect $200 (or whatever your state pays in unemployment). Otherwise examine your tenure with your last employer for things to do better with your next employer.

Once you understand your previous mistakes, it’s time to find the job you want (and not make the same mistakes again). While I’m convinced that nobody loves every aspect of their job, many people put up with parts of their jobs so they can do the parts they like. Maximizing the upside and minimizing the downside is a good and realistic goal. Consider every possible factor that plays into a job – the work, the setting, the culture, the people, the hours, the money, the perks. And then consider them again in relation to each other. Money, for example, is important, but you may value an incremental difference in pay far less than the ability to work at home in your pajamas twice a week.

With the answers to these 2 questions, you’re in a good position to start making changes. But don’t slack on this, or you may find yourself in the same position next year. Or possibly worse, you may end up employed but hating your life because of it.

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