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Posted: July 21, 2009

Execs: Avoid becoming a statistic

Unemployment likely to hit 10% in 2010

John Heckers

You are going to hear the Fed’s most recent forecast soon: Unemployment is likely to hit 10 percent in early 2010. You will also hear that it will take five to six years before the economy recovers and employment rises.

Many executives are very concerned about this prediction — and with very good reason. 

Unemployment will become a reality for a high percentage of executives. While most executives have many resources to weather a long stint of unemployment, execs in smaller - and medium-sized companies are often the first to go. This is especially true at the director and VP levels, where executives might be seen as disposable. (There, of course, are a few exceptions, including those who head mega-corporations, where when executives finally are let go, they are provided a golden parachute.)

So, if you’re an executive, what steps can you take now? 

1). Get networking now! You should network at every meal and opportunity you get. Network with colleagues, new people you meet, golfing buddies, friends of friends, people looking for employment (helping them out if you are able) and everyone else you know, including his or her friends and family members. At your level, more than 90 percent of jobs are found by networking. (Email me for a free list of top networking venues in Denver.)

2). Make friends with people on all career levels. In my 25-plus years as an executive transition coach, I’ve only had one “C”-level executive find a job through another “C” level. Most find jobs through VP - and director-level personnel. Get to know people on the “lower” rungs of the career ladder. Help them while you can and rack up some “markers,” who will want to return the favor. You’ll find that fellow top executives can have very bad memories if you’re not currently at the top, too.

3). Mobilize professional support now. Hire a clothing and image coach. Have an attorney look at your contract. Contact your financial planner to ensure you’re as optimized as possible. Talk to a real estate agent. Chat with your accountant.  Hire a career coach/transition coach now before you’re unemployed or even if you don’t think you will be unemployed. And don't forget about your personal support network. Begin scheduling breakfasts, lunches or coffees with mentors, protégés, friends and other informal advisors.

4). Consider every opportunity. Especially if you want to stay in Colorado, you might find it a bit of a challenge to obtain a similar top-level position if you’re RIFed, particularly if you're at a large company. This is actually good news, because a large company is not where you’re going to make the most money, nor where you’re going to have the most fun. Go for smaller - and medium-sized companies that aren’t on the “radar” yet. Listen to entrepreneurs who have business ideas they want “a little help” on. Offer help if you are able. You don’t know where it will go. Many of my clients have found such assistance can lead to a lucrative job with an attractive equity position. Most of you can “float” money-wise for a few months or years anyway.

5). Finally, update your executive wardrobe and look your absolute best in case you need to conduct a job search. There are many reasonably priced venues, even for custom clothing, in Denver.

These are a few steps you can take to avoid being a statistic. Don’t be afraid to spend the money you need to spend now to set yourself up for later: It will almost certainly provide a great ROI in the future.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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