Put your fear to work

Frankly Speaking

Are you afraid? You probably are. When times are good, many IT people have no fears at all. The rest have a variety of concerns: not gaining that promotion, being stuck on a dead-end project, dealing with an unpleasant boss. But times aren’t good, and right now we all dread pretty much the same thing: getting laid off and not being able to find a new job.

That’s not unrealistic. You really are at risk of losing your job even if you do it well. And for that uncertainty, there’s no end in sight.

So don’t ignore that fear. Use it.

Sure, you could rationalize it away. You know these tough times will end eventually. Small retailers saw bottom around the end of October. Manufacturing, the first sector of the economy to slide into recession, is slowly climbing back out. But IT was the last sector into the quicksand, and we’ll likely be the last ones out.

And sure, we will eventually see a return to healthy IT budgets and fully staffed IT shops. Talk of a permanently lean IT staff always sounds good to the budget committee. But IT is too strategic today and no company can survive without a healthy IT budget in the long term.

But in the short term, you could end up on the street. That’s the gnawing fear we’ll all be living with for some time to come.

So don’t pretend it’s not there. Pay attention to it. Use it as motivation. Take the gut feeling that something’s wrong and turn it into action.

There have been a lot of stories written recently about what to do if you are laid off. Here are a few tips on what to do when you haven’t been laid off yet:

Make yourself less likely to be laid off. Take the unpleasant assignments. Be pleasant to users. Solve problems. Don’t rock the boat unnecessarily. Does this sound like selling out? Sure it is. Right now the company is buying you with that paycheque, and you want to stay bought.

Make yourself more likely to be hired. Learn some new skills on your own time and your own nickel. Join a users group or a professional society, and go to the meetings. Network. Do favours for people who are looking for jobs. Make sure you know which managers will give you a glowing recommendation. But don’t worry about polishing your r