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Keep Learning as Your Company Falls Apart

-When Bank of America and Countrywide announced a merger, 7,500 jobs were lost!
-United and Continental airlines were cutting routes and personnel due to rising fuel costs!
-UBS, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs distributed pink slips on Wall Street only months after meltdown of Bear Stearns.

When we speak at the organizational level like this, we sometimes forget that there are people working with these companies whose lives and careers are changing in ways they might not have foreseen.

Recent grad or staff at schools that are struggling financially might feel particularly vulnerable, worried about being last in and first out.

A recent college graduate with a MS in Human Resources, (Class of 2003) shared that the call center where she is now the HR Director, was experiencing financial challenges due to the economic downturn. The future with the company where she has built a career doesn’t look promising. She was considering making a move quickly to something more stable.

Many employees, whether public sector or private, facing similar career decisions consider job hunting for more secure jobs. Once we dispelled the myth of “secure” jobs in today’s business environment we started to see some of the benefits that she, as an HR Director, could get from staying with an organization in crisis. We realized quickly that the opportunity that was unfolding offered several advantages to gain new job skills and develop new competencies.

Having maneuvered through industry downturns before, I shared some career advice about some of the Human Resource management skills she could develop through this shaky transition. Some include:

– Managing internal communications by staying on top of the rumor mill. Sharing relevant information with staff as needed in a positive way.
– Helping workers transition out of the organization by working with headhunters and out placement firms.
– If the company does not close but retools, she would learn a lot about how to to lead an organization through change.

It is hard to see the upside of being downsized, furloughed or laid off, but it is possible there are opportunities to learn. Think the situation through carefully and look for opportunities to learn even as the organization struggles through difficult times. Before making life changing career decisions, ask for career advice from someone who could help and offer some perspective.

Read – Five Reasons It’s a Good Idea to Stay on a Sinking Ship

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