Before It Happens: 5 Ways to Prepare for Unexpected Job Loss

Before It Happens: 5 Ways to Prepare for Unexpected Job Loss

This is part one of my series on how to survive sudden job loss. Learn more about the economic impact on unemployment and millennials here. Read my full unemployment guide here

Part one of this unemployment guide is all about setting yourself up for success — beforehand. Whether you feel your job is at risk, think you'll be canned or if you think you're safe, these are tactical ways to protect yourself and your work. If you work in digital, meaning your work lives on the Internet or you rely on digital technology, then it's even more important to take these recommended precautions into consideration. 

Before It Happens: Stay Smart, Stay Alert

Know the work you create for an employer or client most likely belongs to them. Take a second to answer this question: "Did I sign an NDA or a contract with these people?" The answer, most likely, is Yes. Find that paperwork you probably signed and re-read the clause around work ownership. The fine print may read something like this:

Company shall own all right, title, and interest in the Inventions, and all Inventions will be deemed to be works made for hire. If any Inventions are deemed not to constitute works made for hire, or in the event that you are deemed to retain any rights (by operation of law or otherwise or whether moral rights or otherwise) to any Inventions, you hereby assign to Company, all worldwide rights, title and interests in and to the Inventions.

This is standard legal jargon that basically means you give up owner's rights to any work you create for the company while employed. It sucks to think about but it's a reality you'll need to work around. Not every contract is the same, some have more strict terms, others are less strict so study up on anything you signed.

Build A Portfolio

This is a tricky situation, but I really enjoy the advice Martin from Portfolio Principles shares in this Medium post:

How to show NDA protected work on your online portfolio.

Learn more ways to talk about your work, even if it's protected under an NDA here and here.

You can also back up copies of your work to a personal drive or cloud storage like Dropbox or GoogleDrive. This is a crucial step to ensure you have digital files or copies to reference in the future. You're going to need work samples for your own portfolio when job hunting, or you may need to reference previous projects down the line. I still find myself using templates, deks, documents and spreadsheets I created several years ago to guide new projects. You never know when they'll come in handy! 

If you're sharing files from a company drive to a personal one, double check sharing permissions. On GoogleDrive I recommend making yourself the "owner" and also downloading a hard copy. In Dropbox, simply create a duplicate copy and move the files from a work account to a personal account. 

Last step here: make sure to back up your work on a regular basis. Perhaps once a month, do some housekeeping. Make copies of your best work, work you're most proud of, or new work. You can remove sensitive information like client names later. The important thing is that you save yourself the headache of not having anything to show for in a job you might lose one day. Also, if you do get let go, you won't have the opportunity to do any of this. So do it now while you have the chance!

The next two tips may seem obvious but are often overlooked.

Organize Your Contacts & Network

Keep a healthy and up-to-date contact list of people you have good relationships with at work. Think clients, colleagues or peers who can vouch for you. Look through your emails first: Have a really awesome client email that shows off what a fantastic job you've done? Is a client or coworker singing your praises for a job well done? Forward that note, along with their contact info, over to your personal email so you can reach out to them later. Want to secure a testimonial or recommendation? Make the request while you're still in good spirits with these people and be specific about what you'd like them to say in the recommendation. Think about your career goals and ask them to write about your performance, your partnership or your professionalism so you can share that with future employers.

Similar to your digital copies, export your contact list from your work email into a hard copy back up like a spreadsheet, store them in an app like Evernote or add them to your address book in iCloud. Also, connect with them on LinkedIn if you aren't already!

Practice Money-Saving Habits

Last, but definitely not least and probably the hardest is to save money. It’s not about not buying coffee everyday, it's about creating a savvy and realistic budget that makes sense based on your income and your goals. The key here is to be strategic about how much you can save and how often. Here are some methods that work well for me and my partner:

Try the 52-week money challenge. You'll be tasked with saving one dollar incrementally, each week throughout the year, for one full year, which totals $1,378! You can continue this method beyond one year to save more, of course. I love this idea because it's simple and low maintenance, but rewarding.

 Download Digit

Download Digit

Consider going digital with a mobile app like Digit that studies your financial behaviors to automatically and regularly save what you can afford to. Instead of trying to make the "save 10% of every paycheck" rule work, Digit does the math-saving for you. It connects to your main checking account to assess your average monthly income, taking into consideration deposits, spending habits and deductions like bills to calculate how much you can afford to put away for savings on a daily basis. Depending on your checking account, the amount that Digit saves for you will fluctuate. The cool thing with this app is that you still have control over your savings: You can pause Digit whenever you want and you can withdraw money from your savings when you need to. I challenge you to only touch your savings when absolutely necessary. Simple.com's 'Goals' feature works in similar ways as a digital-only bank with savings capabilities built into one checking account. I've been a huge Simple fan since 2013 and highly recommend ditching big banks for them. Learn more about Simple here

Also, take your 401(k) seriously. Just like this author, I maxed out my 401(k) contributions this year, an achievement I’d never even come close to before. It wasn't until I was 30 that I decided I should give 401(k) savings a shot and receiving those checks when you're unemployed are such a gift. It's like free money! Seriously, sign up for 401(k).

Now that you have some homework to do, report back and let me know how these tips work out for you.

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