When it comes to your career and your family’s well-being, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. In fact, the saying “expect the unexpected” is often true. Life is full of surprises, and it’s important to be prepared as much as you can for those unexpected rainy days. What would a “rainy day” look like for you in your career? Maybe it’s getting laid off, fired, incapacitated and unable to work full time, or an unexpected need for an immediate move. There are too many what ifs to cover in life, but a few major unexpected events that can affect your career.
Nobody expects to get laid off. I surely didn’t, but then it happened. I was working for a large software vendor and felt pretty secure in my position. Then one Monday morning I dropped my kids off at school and got a phone call that went like this, “Good morning Greg, today is your last day with (name withheld), there has been a business realignment and you position has been cancelled.” Boom, just like that, after 3 years I was shown the door. You just don’t expect something like that to happen, so how can you possibly prepare for it?
First off, you have to change your mentality and realize that business is business and layoffs, unfortunately, are a part of the game. If you keep the mindset that any day could be your last, you’ll be prepared if it happens. Your resume should be up to date, you should be active in the community and keep your network up to date. Keep every “We found your resume in our database and thought you would be a good fit…” email in a folder so you have quick access to recruiters.
Aside from preparing professionally, it’s important to ensure your finances are where they need to be. I like Dave Ramsey a lot. Some people disagree with him, but he makes some good points. His book Total Money Makeover has the steps you need to take to get out of debt and be financially secure and ready for anything life might throw your way. Dave says you should have six months of expenses in an account that is easy to access and liquidate if the need should arise. Not six months of salary, six months of all the bills it takes to keep your house running — mortgage, cable, internet, power, gas, etc. When you have six months of reserve in the bank to pay all of your bills, it gives you wiggle room to search for a new job and get back on your feet without going into financial ruin or running up credit cards.
Depending on your job or role in your job, you could be reassigned at any given point. If you are in the military this is especially true, although you have a good support system to get you from point A to point B. If you are a civilian or contractor, often you don’t get relocation assistance. If you’re considering a job-related move you need to look at finances first and figure out where you stand. If you find that you are in tons of debt with hardly any savings to speak of, start saving now. If you can communicate your desire to be in certain locations, that gives you the ability to prepare for two-to-three scenarios instead of any scenario. Get on the same page with your spouse. If they aren’t aware of the possibility of moving at the drop of the hat, bring them up to speed. Hopefully your work situation provides you with assistance should you need to relocate, but it’s best to be prepared for the possibility of uprooting your life.
This is one issue that is perhaps most difficult to be prepared for. A disability has such big implications. When I say disability, I’m not talking about a sprained ankle that puts you in crutches for 4-6 weeks. I’m talking about cancer, major injuries, death or dismemberment. Bad stuff. How do you prepare for something like this?
First off, ensure you have long term and short term disability through your company. With disability insurance you get almost a full paycheck should you be incapacitated. This gives your family continued income if you can’t go to work. Don’t rely strictly on disability insurance, however. Save some of your own money! Do you have emergency savings? If you don’t, it’s never too late to start. In the case of death, is your family going to be taken care of? Get life insurance, and supplement it above and beyond your company’s life insurance offering. Usually companies will give you up to six times your base salary for life insurance, not to exceed a predetermined amount. Sometimes that’s only up to $1 million, which might not be enough. The way to prepare is figure out what it costs to pay off your mortgage, your vehicles, and any loans you have out. You don’t want to leave your family in debt should something happen to you.
IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL
Preparation and planning is key. Get a will, keep your resume up to date, be active in your network, get life insurance, and ensure you have six months of expenses saved up. These are just a few things you can do to be prepared for the unexpected things that happen in life. You will be surprised at the peace of mind that comes with being prepared for the unexpected. It suddenly will become not such a big deal – just a speed bump in the long term.