If you’ve seen or heard anything in the media about Preppers (also known as “survivalists”), you may think of cabins in the woods with huge stockpiles of food, water, weapons and toiletries, powered by generators and filled with long-haired rebels ready for post-apocalyptic living.
Although not all preppers have cabins, they do have one thing in common: they don’t believe that the going paradigm will last.
They’re highly inspired to action by distrust and skepticism: the markets will crash, currency will be worthless (and we will turn to a bartering economy), oil will run out, and natural disasters will wreak havoc on our lives. It’s best, in their minds, to prepare now for dire situations, which many of them see as eventualities.
Sounds crazy, yes? (from the comfort of the going paradigm, anyway.) But here’s the thing: crazy people can also be right, occasionally. And, even if they’re not right, it’s possible that they are still on to something, but just not to the extreme level they’ve embraced.
So, what if we took that prepper mindset and applied it to your career? You might be thinking “Seriously? That’s crazy talk!” But, if you recall, totally-stable-minded Lehman Brothers employees embraced the going paradigm, and they all actually did need a backup plan (if not quite an emergency generator). Their whole way of making a living was wiped out in a short period of time.
It’s true that our way of working is changing, and we’re no longer living in the job-for-life paradigm. We’re becoming a nation of free agents, freelancers, contract workers, and job-hoppers. At some point, we will likely need to rely on quick thinking and survival skills to quickly get back on our feet after a shock.
With that in mind, here’s what needs to be in your Career Survival Kit:
Skepticism about the paradigm. Even though it may be hard to imagine, your current employer (or clients, if you’re a business owner) may: go out of business, downsize, cut budgets, relocate, consolidate, offshore, or change business direction. If you’ve never taken a moment or two to wonder what you’d do if that happened, you need to give it some thought and start to make some plans.
- Career Survival Kit Item 1: a knowledge that this current gig won’t last forever, and a well-thought-out backup plan.
Self-reliance. Preppers aren’t counting on “the man” or “the system” to provide; they expect an “everyone-for-themselves” world. They make a game plan that provides for their families, should the worst happen. What they don’t do? Wait for their employer to provide the training they need to survive in the new economy, or hope that “if they just work hard, their work will be recognized.” On your end, if you don’t have a career game plan outlining the skills you need to be current and marketable apart from your current employer, you need to get on that, soon.
- Career Survival Kit Item 2: a mindset of self-reliance, resilience and willingness to take action yourself.
Self-taught skills. Even if their actions are driven by a global fear, Preppers are pretty amazing in their fearlessness to learn new things. They take it upon themselves to figure out what they need to survive in a new ecosystem. They build their own emergency survival skills, and you should, too. What do you need to learn in order to stay afloat outside of your current mothership? And even if you need to pay for it yourself, when can you start learning those skills?
- Career Survival Kit Item 3: Skills that you need to survive in the new paradigm (to adapt to however your industry might be evolving).
Savings & Emergency Items. Preppers decide how much time they might need to survive on their own (say, after a flood) and save what they need to survive. Many create a 72-hour kit (figuring that’s how long it might take for a rescue crew to arrive), a “get out of dodge” kit (with the essentials they’d need for their families to take flight to a new location), and a stockpile of food that should last them several months. In your own 72-hour career emergency kit, do you have your resume, key contact information, references and work accomplishments saved somewhere – not on your work computer? Have you downloaded your LinkedIn contacts to a spreadsheet in case anything happens to LinkedIn? And, for the stockpile, I’m not saying you need to make a jarred pickle tower in your basement, but do you have an emergency savings fund that could sustain you if something happens to your work? That should be item #1 on your list if that’s not already set aside.
- Career Survival Kit Items 4-9: Resume, Contacts from your work computer, References, Reviews/Work Accomplishment List, Portfolio Items (if needed), and enough cash in the bank for 3-6 months (or longer, if you’re in a specialized profession or an executive role).
An in-case-of-emergency plan. Preppers decide in advance what they’ll do if/when the worst happens. They figure out a communication plan, the activities that need to happen in the first few days, a route they can take out of town, and more. Are you working on what that alternative path you might take, should you need to find new employment? Do you have a list of the first 10 people you’d call if you suddenly lost your job?
- Career Survival Kit Item 10: A comprehensive plan for your next job search. Who will you call? What might you consider? Even if you don’t need an emergency situation to pull it out, it’s better to make a plan when things aren’t hitting the fan.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to freak you out, or inspire you to make your own beef jerky (although it’s actually easy to do). I’m only trying to engender a mindset of survival tactics and self-reliance that will help you in the future of our shifting economy. And, truth be told, I’ve got my own stash of pickles and jams in the basement, but not for apocalyptic reasons.
What about you? What career survival strategies do you think would be helpful for people to have ready in case of a career emergency?