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How to prepare for a job loss

by | Oct 23, 2019 | 0 comments

I would wish that am writing about how to find a job. That’s what all job seekers are interested in at this time.

We have seen a rise in job losses recently and it is a trend bound to continue as the winds of change sweep across Kenya’s, regional and indeed global business landscape. It is naïve to think that loss of a job happens to others; that is, it would not affect you. I would rather suggest that every employee today opens a personal risk register and logs job loss as a major risk.

Why would one bother? First of all, traditional employment is changing. I have thought that before too long the Government and even the private sector will no longer employ people on permanent and pensionable terms. Instead, this policy would be abandoned in favour of contractual jobs between one to three years at most, but with the hope of renewal. This is a long-held practice among NGOs, primarily because they depend on uncertain donor funds and specified project-based grants.

As companies and governments become unsure of future income prospects, they will tend to favour short-term rather than long-term commitments with employees. But also, such contracts are proving an effective strategy where staff development, succession planning, and performance management are concerned.

Secondly, organisations are existing in a time of massive disruption. Any acquisition of skills in an organisation must mean substantial value addition to the organisation and especially towards shareholder value maximisation and long-term sustainability of the business. Jobs that seem to add little value are fast being replaced with others that optimise value. Industry 4.0 has seen realisation of high-end technologies that are now doing what human beings could previously do and even better. This is not a mere imagination; right here in Nairobi Kenya, Standard Chartered Bank has ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) that receive cash deposits in real-time thus eliminating the need for a Bank Teller. Another example is the use of smartphones in research which significantly reduces the cost of data collection for researchers, increases the speed and accuracy as well as response rate.

Technologies like Zoom conferencing will soon be commonplace as I remember in 2017, I participated in a whole week’s global workshop without leaving my desk in Nairobi. The workshop was quite effective and enjoyable, except for the fact that we never interacted physically, but had a full view of all participants from different continents as if we were all in one room.

Further, artificial intelligence is helping organisations process data much faster, more accurately and make more precise decisions to stay ahead in the competition. Business analytics is less and less relying on human intervention as machines and computers come of age.

Nonetheless, as several jobs are affected and fall victim of winds of change, so are new ones being created. There is a great possibility that part of the unemployment experienced is a disparity between demand and supply of skills on new and emerging jobs. The bottom is that line the winds of change are blowing and will continue, so it is best to imagine that losing one’s job is no longer a remote idea.

In the remaining part of this article, I would like to discuss a few practical things that those employed should do to prepare themselves in case they fall victim to job loss, instead of fearing, being depressed and stressed over it.

1)     Earn as many jobless months as possible. One of the primary reasons we get jobs is to earn a living to meet life’s basic needs and fulfil our dreams and aspirations. In this era of rapid changes and increased possibility of job loss, it is quite important to check on your finances.

Financial managers state that it is important to have some form of savings worth several months, a minimum of six months, just in case you were to lose your job. Now, this is a difficult thing for many people, however, it is worth trying just like keeping fit is. While you still have your job try every month to put away money that builds up to what would be enough to keep you jobless for several months.

If what would be enough to meet your monthly needs is say, Ksh. 50,000, you need to see how long it would take to earn your one month’s worth of joblessness. So, for example, if you save Ksh. 25,000 each month, it would take you two months to earn your one jobless month. So, if you were to lose your job today, then you have at least one month’s worth of cash to keep you going while you look for an alternative source of income. The more jobless months you earn yourself, the less worried you will be in case of a job loss.

2)     Keep your loans in check. Loans are good, in fact very important for developing oneself. The thing with loans, however, is that they can hurt one’s finances and wellbeing in case of a job loss. Simple advice is, don’t borrow more than you can handle even when you lose your job

Borrowing to acquire and or develop an income-generating asset would be a good idea since in case of a job loss the asset should hopefully be mature enough to service its own loan and eventually continue to generate income. Only again ensure to borrow within your reasonable debt capacity.

Financial managers advice that one should never exceed 50% of their net income on all expenses including rent and loan repayment. Borrow within your means and invest in income-generating and or value appreciating assets.

3)     Acquire new skills. You might say that you are too old to study new things and acquire new skills. Well, one is only as old as they think. If Donald Trump at 73 years old uses Twitter like a millennial, no one is too old to learn new skills, especially at work.

New skills learned and applied at work as a self-initiative will not only help to improve your work results and add value to your organisation but could actually make a difference between you retaining and or losing your job when it happens. Well, no one will stay employed forever, but that is no good excuse not to get out of your way to learn new skills on how to do things.

YouTube is full of videos on “how-to” skills that could be quite helpful at your workplace or personal life in terms of making money. Instead of spending too much unnecessary time following political gossips and conspiracy theories online, convert that time to learning a new skill every month.

4)     Know how you’ll make a living at the end of employment. Yes, no one is too young to think about retirement. And there are many opportunities out there.

One very practical example for the young employees is to consider monthly savings in a financial unit trust which at maturity could buy you an annuity to keep you comfortable for the remainder of your life. All it requires is the discipline to save monthly and consistently.

Well, if that does not work for you, other options include building rentals, acquiring farmland, starting a side business that can be scaled up, starting an online part-time job, etc. The idea is for you to imagine yourself not in employment and need to continue earning. What would that look like for you and in your specific circumstances? Just do it!

5)     Change your attitude. Last but not least it is important to have an open mind at all times. In today’s world, the people that survive and thrive are those that generally keep an open mind, are constantly learning and are quick to adapt to the changing situations. My humble, honest and sincere view is that it does not help to complain and blame the Government for hard economic times or castigate your colleagues and bosses for the loss of your job.

Instead, it helps to have the attitude that situations keep changing and the best thing to do is to keep yourself armed and ready to meet every challenge that comes along. Additionally, those who possess the attitude of changing the world around them and helping other people meet their needs, increase their chances of surviving and thriving in any and every kind of challenge.

In conclusion, job losses are not new and will likely continue as changes in various factors that make business possible to keep shifting. The effect is that not all jobs will remain relevant and organisations will not be obligated to retain such jobs. This, however, should not mean the end of one’s career and means of making a living. It is prudent to think ahead and prepare oneself as much as it is practically possible for a jobless future. Acquiring an open attitude to change backed by a healthy personal financial status, acquisition of new skills and focus on long-term income-generating initiatives are some of the useful strategies that could help you cope better with the issue of job loss.

An important factor that everyone should always consider is that legitimate opportunities to make a living are ever-present. One only needs to look keenly and re-evaluate current versus other non-traditional options and be bold enough to take steps towards the new approaches and opportunities.

Dr. Antony Mburu

Organisation Development and Change Management Consultant

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