Chris is a teacher…she has been for more than three decades. (And a good one, too.) For the past five years or so, she’s been teaching at a private Christian academy — which has gone from 200 students to about 30 enrolled. Chris got a contract last year, plus a raise…but things are looking increasingly seedy and unorganized. The current principal isn’t around — his son, ostensibly in charge, spends less and less time there.
What happens when this school year ends? Chris is starting to wonder.
Dave started as a bus driver, then a trainer…then worked himself into an IT position, doing the transportation department’s computer work. He’s been with the school district for more than 14 years, with commensurate raises and vacation time. (He’s up to a month now on the latter.) Dave’s new managers, who initially sang his praises, are now talking about “new developments.” They’ve also cut the assistant they promised him, are specifying what hours he must be in the office (he works those, plus extra), and aren’t pleased when he’s honest about problems and solutions. He gets the feeling that his new bosses are more than aware he’s earning more money and benefits than a new hire would get.
What will the coming months bring? Dave is starting to wonder.
Would you worry, if you were in these people’s shoes?
Although the unemployment rate is currently down (5.6% as of this writing), plenty of people still are looking for work. Although other factors, like the population and region, come into play, it’s estimated that for every $10,000 you’ve earned, it will take a month to find a new job. That means up to seven months of searching, or more, for the average person. (If that seems too long to you, bear in mind that the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an average job search at 14.6 weeks. “Older and long-term unemployed workers face a tougher challenge:” from 26-52 weeks. A year, looking for work!
“I’m not worried,” you say. “I like what I’m doing — and the company’s doing great.” Good. But if you’re currently looking for a job, or starting to get the feeling that you should be, here are some tips to get you there in better shape.
*Be realistic. What are the odds that you will be working for this company next year? Next question: do you want to? This might be a heaven-sent opportunity to change that.
*Check out unemployment benefits, just in case. Benefits vary per state — better to know now what you’d be eligible for.
*Set a timeline. How much longer do you think you have? In the case of Chris, mentioned above, her contract goes through July 31st, with no guarantees after that. Dave, on the other hand, might be able to weather his situation. (He has before, at least twice.) But he is technically able to retire anytime after March 1st. Should he consider that possibility?
*Start looking now while you still have work. Don’t wait until the pink slip or the shutdown notice.
*Beef up your resume. It probably is years out of date. Here’s a good place to begin. Their main point: “A great resume doesn’t just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career.”
Here, too. Two things to remember: clearly written — no fancy jargon — and short. The resume doesn’t get you the job; it gets you an interview.
*Save as much as you can. This couple saves more than 50% of their income. You may not be able to accomplish that, especially on short notice. Hopefully you have money put away in an emergency fund. Can it cover the months you’ll possibly be out of work? If not, start taking advantage of every money hack you can find. (Like this batch of articles, from Wise Bread. Our’25 Ways to Save’ articles on MLF come in handy, too.)
*Be careful who you talk to. And don’t accidentally leave your resume in the copy machine, or make your hunt the subject of the next coffee break! You may love your co-workers, but don’t trust them on this subject. Yet.
*If asked, be vague. Don’t lie about it. Comments like — “I keep my options open” or “I want to keep up-to-date on our industry” – convey a similar meaning, without giving your plans away.
*Now may be the time to work for yourself. Owning your own business has excellent tax benefits, too, if you do it right.
Above all, don’t panic. After all, it’s not you — or your family — or your life.
It’s just a job.