Career Tips

Transitioning Through The Next Government Shutdown, Layoff, Or Career Uknown

By Dave Isbell w/ special insights from Marva Goldsmith

Recently I had a quick chat with Washington, DC area Career Coach/Personal Branding Expert/Author, Marva Goldsmith. I was curious about her “on the ground” experience in an area where thousands of people were wondering and worrying about their careers at the same time. At the time, we were nearing the end of the longest government shut down in history, leaving us all feeling a little rattled as the ripple effect started to crawl out into areas outside of D.C. Marva is a government contractor, who was fortunate to continue working through the government shutdown. However, thousands of government contractors throughout the country received “stop work orders.” Her ideas, which were primarily focused on the contractors,  sparked a few thoughts of my own that I’ve seen work in the past. After the discussion, it dawned on me that these thoughts extend beyond the times when a government-induced catastrophe, or corporate downsizing, or other external force works against our plans. These really are ideas that we might all consider when facing any kind of “unknown” in our careers.

Let others in your network know that you are looking for work.

This seems like a no-brainer, but let’s add one disclaimer to this: take some time to evaluate what you are capable of and what you want to do before you tell others. And don’t forget to listen to what others want/need before you start talking. “Tell me more about that project you said you were involved in” and moving toward something like “hey, I think I can help with that” goes a lot farther than, “I’m out of work!”

Diversify your work portfolio to appeal to a broader audience.

For example, if you are/were shut down or shutout of work, how can you translate what you have done into what needs to be done in private industry? Think about your competencies, values, characteristics, and NOT the job descriptions. If you have to stay in your geographic area, start getting to know your city better. Everyone knows the giant industry players there, but have you ever considered the mid-sized companies? The small businesses? Hot Tip: Hop onto Google Maps and type in the name of your city/state and then keyword search items that interest you. Make it a point to study the companies/industries that come up. Who are their competitors/customers? What stories are in the local news about them? What projects are they working on right now? What can you offer to those places? Combine your networking with your diversification strategy and go over to Linkedin to see who you may be able to find there to talk to.

Identify work products that can be packaged and sold online to other entities.

Choose your words carefully and let your creativity run wild! Do you sell the “best burgers in town” (for example) or are you selling an experience? Can you repackage the work you were doing into some kind of “consulting” service for people who need your expertise? How might you translate that experience, or that knowledge, into a product or service that can be sold online to consumers that are not tied to your geographic area? *Disclaimer: Marva’s initial comments to me were aimed at government contractors, who can repackage their work product.  Government workers, and most employees in other industries, cannot legally take the work product (developed while being paid by their employer) and sell those elsewhere.

Volunteer during the shutdown – or while you are “in-between” jobs – to increase your network and your value to potential customers.

Did you know that Gene Simmons is a restaurant owner? Probably all but the most hardcore KISS fans didn’t know that either. Yet, one can be pretty certain that giving away free food during the shut-down cost his restaurant less than they gained from the publicity. (One caveat: You don’t need to be a famous rock star, or wealthy business owner, to benefit from volunteerism; however, I would recommend that you serve authentically for the sake of those whom you are serving lest it backfire when those who receive benefits from your service view it as self-serving or as a cheap publicity stint to sell them something they don’t want!)

Consider working in other areas of interest (hobbies) that may be less stressful. (Perhaps pursue work that you love – but never thought it could make money – after all, what do you have to lose.)

Seriously, let me reiterate what Marva said. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE? If you’ve always wanted to write a book, use some time in between your job-search and/or waiting to be recalled, to write. Who cares if it’s any good! Just write! (In recent times some seriously bad novels have been turned into seriously bad movies. Maybe you could be the next author who is laughing all the way to the bank while us literature snobs secretly envy you while we write snobby critiques on Twitter that nobody is reading or paying for? It won’t happen if you don’t write!) If you’ve always loved baking, well, start looking for people who love baked goods and who will buy your offerings! Look, there are actually people who have full time occupations playing the Magic card game, video games, poker. You name it and someone out there is being paid to do it! Why not you? So dust off your scuba gear and get creative about how to help enough of your inner-city neighbors to pay you to fall in love with it too! What do you have to lose?

Dave Isbell is the Assistant Director of Alumni Professional Enrichment in the MSU Alumni Association and is the primary person responsible for this blog and our corresponding twitter account. His primary role in the MSUAA is to develop online content that helps Michigan State alumni to live, work, and play better in their own communities. Dave is not able to accept individual appointments, but in developing programs and projects he does draw from his experience as a Licensed Master Social Worker and his background as a professional Career Coach since 1999.

Marva Goldsmith is one of the Career Coaches that can be found in our Career Coach directory for MSU Alumni. She is the author of the Perennial Workforce and Re-Branding Yourself After Age 50.



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