Managing your Career through Stormy Weather

One day you may find yourself working for a company that is struggling with its own survival. During this time, it could feel like you are treading water and that your career is at a standstill. But consider the climate because managing a career while your company is in crisis, is tricky.

For various reasons you may conclude that jumping ship is not advantageous for you at this time and the beneficial option is to stay at your company. Always begin with an assessment of your personal situation in order to determine your priorities, which will then set your career objectives.     

There is no silver bullet on how to maneuver difficult conditions because you never know what comes into play, when management is making decisions. But being proactive may give you some sense of control so that you don’t feel so powerless.  

Talking to coworkers across the firm and networking will give you a sense of what opportunities exist. But take your company’s challenges into account so that you may adapt your style. Everyone tends to be on edge, so approach colleagues and managers with sensitivity to the pressures they face. Most employees are worried about their own jobs and less likely to extend a hand to help others. Be careful and considerate with your approach.

When a company is facing financial woes its strategy becomes cost cutting and headcount reductions are almost always imminent. If your position is being made redundant, there really isn’t much that you can do about it.

If you work in a business that hasn’t been profitable, it is likely that the firm will cut in your area. If you work in a function that supports a business that isn’t earmarked for growth, it is likely that you are also at risk. Take stock of thriving areas and focus on those divisions, as you look to make your next career move. 

If you are worried about your job you can ask your boss if lay-offs are planned for your area. They may not know, or they may not tell you; but if you have a good relationship, they may give you some indication. Read between the lines. If your boss dramatically changes their behavior towards you and suddenly starts to avoid you, this may be a signal. If your boss stops allocating workflow to you, this too may be an indicator. If your boss suggests that maybe you should start looking for something else, then perhaps you should. 

In the meantime, try to remain focused and concentrate on doing your job and doing it well. Despite any anger, frustration or anxiety you may feel, you are still paid a salary for a job that you are expected to do. Companies may reduce headcount based on employee performance, so it is important that you continue to perform.

Advancement may be difficult but it is not impossible and I’ve found that some of my greatest vertical moves have been during turbulent times. When the company's trajectory is moving slowly and consistently upward everyone tends to rise at a steady pace and opportunities are fewer. But in times of dislocation, there are instances where you can zig and zag and even leap frog several levels up. Keep your eyes and ears open for those situations.

Re-negotiating your salary and asking for a raise during a time when your company is looking to reduce fixed costs, isn’t a good idea. If you try and play hardball with your company, even if you think you have leverage, they may tell you to "go pound sand." It also displays a lack of judgement and shows that you are out of touch with the reality of the situation. Untimely negotiations can be off-putting and although you might be considered as critical staff today, your behavior will not be forgotten.

Working for a company in crisis isn't easy and keeping your spirits up can be challenging particularly as anxiety rises within the employee base. If the stress becomes too immense it may be time to consider other options. The good news is, that although your company may be struggling, the economy is doing well and companies are hiring again.This is the point of the story where I recommend that you keep an open mind and consider exploring all your options including ones outside of your company.