Self-Care: Employment Plan B

If things are starting to feel fishy at your workplace, it’s time to review your finances first and foremost.

Job loss. It’s inevitable at some point in your life. 

Gone are the college-to-grave lifelong jobs that previous generations were blessed with. Also gone is the loyalty between employers and employees, as start-up culture takes over the market and is often led by inexperienced business owners, leading to high turnover rates. This generation’s FOMO epidemic created by too many options with too little trust creates dangerous and hostile employment situations when it meets the combination of hurdles that new, modern businesses face. 

In a culture that values ideas more than reality, not every employer who provides snacks in the breakroom and organic tampons in the restrooms will follow up with the actual praxis of said ethics through non-exploitative business practices. Employers know all the buzzwords to lure millennials in but, in the end, they want the same thing employers have always wanted — cheap, easily expendable labor.

No matter how happy and secure you may be, you must seriously consider your backup plan in case the job you have is not what you thought it once was. 

Celebrate each and every win and wonderful person you meet along the way, but be prepared for the worst. It isn’t pessimism; it’s preventative self-care in action. 

Emergencies can and will happen. Regardless of your effort, loyalty, or quality of work, you may find yourself on the other side of a budget crisis or other forms of layoffs which are out of your control and beyond your career periphery. 

What can you do to protect yourself? Make a plan and stash some cash. Here are several simple things that you can do for the inevitable “rainy days” further down the path:

1. Examine Your Finances

If things are starting to feel fishy at your workplace, it’s time to review your finances first and foremost. What can you cut corners on in your personal life? How can you save some extra cash? Like living alone but have enough physical and emotional space for a roommate for six months? Maybe now is the time to put out feelers.

2. Trim The Excess

Start packing your lunch (and your coffee/tea) every day and stash that cash. Trim down the indulgences (Make your own goddamn avocado toast and stop spending $8 a pop!) and put those savings into an actual savings account. It’s unlikely that anyone has bought a million dollar home with the money that they have saved on lunches (unless those lunches are super gourmet) but you can certainly put some extra dough aside that way. 

Say you spend $10 on lunch and drinks daily and work five days a week. If you actually get two weeks vacation each year, that puts you at about 250 days of work annually, not including sick days and such. If you put that $50/week that you saved from lunches, it becomes $2,500/yearly. Little things like lunches add up over time.  

3. Know Your Rights

It never hurts to brush up on employment law a bit and to know your basic rights. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, there are ways to protect yourself. Familiarize yourself with the laws that protect you and, if you need help, seek out free legal clinics to help you figure out what to do. If you live in a city with a law school, there are often free legal services provided by the school and first-year lawyers. Google the phrase “free legal clinic” to find out what is near you. 

4. Make A List of Potential Employers

Like what you’re doing and want to stick with it? Maybe you can do it at your current workplace, but if your gut is telling you that tides are shifting, make sure that you start checking out different options. 

Who else is doing something similar? Start sniffing around with current employees who you know or check out employer review sites like Glassdoor.com to see how employee happiness ranks at these workplaces. You may be willing to sacrifice on one aspect, but check to see how employees are ranking the key aspects that you care about. 

5. Find Your Allies

When things start getting tricky at work, find those who support you. If things get bad, who can you rely on to be a reference for you? Tend to those relationships while you navigate the bumpy road ahead. Genuinely check in with them to see how they are feeling and how you can support them. 

Keep it professional. Avoid trash talking the workplace and your employer, as tempting as it may be when you’re angry. It’s important to channel as much positivity into these interactions and help support one another.

6. Time To Spiff Up Your Resume and Start Networking

Resumes are a pain in the ass, but a necessary evil. When things start shifting at work, it’s time for you to start thinking about your resume. Fix it up before you have to use it so that if the time comes, you’re ready and as confident as you can be in this stressful situation. 

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, now is the time to make or update yours. Many fields and markets (like the Bay area) rely heavily on LinkedIn as a quick way to get a look at their potential employee both via their resume and their headshot. Yes, headshot.

Check out different groups online for professionals in your field and go to networking events. Prepare a 30-second “elevator pitch” that doesn’t make you or your audience want to gouge their eardrums out. Learn to make what you do sound interesting and learn how to highlight your strengths quickly. 

7. Update Your Headshot

As if working the hardest you can and having up-to-date knowledge in your field is not stressful enough, now you’ve got to worry about headshots. If you’re in a market that leans heavily upon LinkedIn, sometimes you just have to give in and join the flock. Make it reflective of how you want a future employer to see you and trade in pouty lips for a pleasant smile. If you wear makeup, keep it somewhat minimal (unless you are in a creative field which gives you more wiggle room). 

8. Find A Side Hustle

If your full-time job feels as though it is on shaky ground, now is the time to consider finding a weekend or night gig a few days a week if you are physically able to do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as something is coming in and you’re not so tired that you miss work at your full-time gig.

It’s tough to force yourself into that much work, especially if it is something that you do not want to do, but sometimes it’s the only choice. You may be exhausted for a while, but it will give you a bit of extra cash to add to your emergency fund. 

Everyone goes through this experience at one point or another in their lifetime. In a best-case scenario, the weirdness blows over, and you’ve got some extra money for your emergencies or other things down the road. If you have to find work elsewhere, you’ve already got a head start and ample references for your future employers to call upon. 

You can do this. You’ve likely lived through worse. Let this be a path to something better.  

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