What’s your career doomsday scenario? If you were fired, laid off or pushed out of your company tomorrow, would you be ready? Some questions that might be swirling through your head right off the bat:

    • Where will your next paycheck come from?
    • Is your resume ready?
    • Have you kept your LinkedIn profile up to date?
    • Have you maintained close contact with your personal and professional network?
  • Do you have allies in your network poised to help you out?

Eli Howayeck, career expert and coach dishes on what career professionals can learn from doomsday preppers.

According to Yahoo Finance, approximately 3.7 million Americans are classified as “preppers.” Preppers ready themselves and their families for a catastrophic event such as an electromagnetic pulse, a terrorist attack on our water supply, a nuclear holocaust, a currency devaluation/crash, etc. The prepper doesn’t know when or how an event will happen, but they steadfastly invest their passion, work, and money to ensure that they are prepared and poised for survival.

I have an uncle that I’d classify as a black belt prepper. In my opinion, he “outranks” most of the preppers I saw showcased on Discovery Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers” before it was cancelled. His doomsday plan includes escape routes, go-bags, a safehouse, supplies, equipment, tools, the ability to grow food and filter water, LOTS of protection, enough food/water for his family (and others) to survive for more than 6 months, and some contingency plans if everything goes to hell. There is keen emphasis on preparedness, safety and security and a stockpile of wisdom here to apply to our lives and in particular, our career and financial security.

Speaking plainly, a catastrophic career event is more likely than a doomsday event to occur. Are you prepared? Here’s a checklist to help you be a black belt career prepper.

The Career Prepper’s Checklist:

    1. Make a plan – If you lost your job tomorrow, what would it mean for your career, your family, and your finances. Make a plan for what your next steps will be. For example, you might look for a job, a consulting gig, etc? Being prepared means thinking through what steps you’ll take and in what order.
    1. Stockpile resources – Cash is king. Not the actual currency, but having enough savings to replace your income for a period of time. How many months can you comfortably survive without a steady paycheck? The answer to this question is a little scary. According to a 2017 GOBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans (57 percent) have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. And while you may land your next position quickly, your search might also last longer than you expect. Even with our economy roaring near full employment, it can take three to six months to find a comparable position (sometimes longer). Don’t rely on severance pay or unemployment to help much. It’s a great safety net, but not all companies provide it and while collecting unemployment can be a temporary stopgap, it doesn’t last forever.
    1. Assemble your Career “Go Bag” Regardless of the reason, the last day of work tends to be a little chaotic. Put together a career go bag that includes some examples of your work, performance reviews, contact information of coworkers and business contacts, testimonials and emails from happy customers and managers, and any training certificates earned. Maintain a list of accomplishments, awards and recognition you’ve received in a centralized location (consider it a “brag book”). These are the things you’ll be shaking your head about as you separate from your employer saying, “I wish I had that stuff together in one place”.
    1. Your Personal Inventory.  Every professional benefits from having a strong command of what their strengths and weaknesses are as well as their sources of passion and purpose.
    1. Keep your resume and LinkedIn Profile Fresh.  Most people fail to keep these things up to date, which leads to stress and panic when you find yourself looking for a new job. You know you’re supposed to do this…let this article help motivate the “why” behind it.
    1. Establish bunkers and safehouses.  Where will you go when you’re not safe in your current shelter (your current job)? What companies and contacts within your network can you foster to lay a foundation for future opportunities? Always be thinking about this as you interact with your clients, business partners, vendors, contractors, and competitors. When you need to enter a safehouse, it’s easier when the door is open and the bridge to the other side is not burned.  
    1. Tend to your network. Show up and be seen, always. Don’t get complacent about networking, even if you dislike it. It’s easier and more effective to network when you don’t need something.
  1. Monitor company, industry, and economic conditions. Don’t get paranoid or start looking for gossip around the office. Don’t look for hidden meaning in the tea leaves but you should keep abreast of important internal and external news affecting the company, the industry and the overall economy. A global or industry shock can reverberate loudly downstream and lead to layoffs or shifts in strategy that can lead to organizational change including layoff.

Finally, your relative job security and the success of your company are not necessarily correlated. Being a strong performer can help you keep your job or raise the likelihood of getting repurposed within the company but performance alone is not a foolproof strategy. Economic shock, business turmoil, and changing business strategies can trigger business realignments and layoffs which can impact employees at all levels. Be vigilant and prepared. Get there on your own, with a friend, or of course, hire a career coach!