She spoke to PRWeek about career navigation during a downturn market.
Are there strategies for keeping your job in a difficult economy?
As a senior communications person within a corporation, a lot of stuff is farmed out. Know your budget and what you're spending, and understand how it is affecting your company's bottom line. Consider calling in a firm such as AgencyLink to review your agency partners, and actually look at what your department is spending and tighten it up so that you can keep your job.
What are some of the warning signs that you might lose your job?
We heard from one guy who had been asking for a [performance] review, and the company had been hesitating on the review. He came in the day after Thanksgiving, and they told him, ‘Today is your last day.' And he had been there for five years. To be honest, he had his head in the sand because he should have known something was up because his employer didn't want to do a review.
What's the biggest mistake people often make when they are let go?
A lot of people close down their network because they are embarrassed. You have to tell people. One gentleman who is a senior VP e-mailed me yesterday because his company is moving the communication role to the US, and he doesn't want to uproot his family. He found out on a Tuesday, and by the Wednesday he was networking like crazy; he had his resume going and was using his Rolodex. He is starting right away [looking for a new job].
What kind of career opportunities can arise during a tough economy?
There are people who have been very successful at setting themselves up as communicator/PR contractors. There is little or no overhead, and they are senior enough that they can give great counsel or even start a small business. For a company that hires a contractor, the individual can be more productive and it keeps the head count down. So a company can get an A+ person that is directly supporting the bottom line at probably half the cost. People should always keep in mind that they can be a contractor through the bad times, and even do it for two or three companies. I know of people who have done it, and done it very well. I know of one individual who consults in the pharmaceutical sector, and no [one company] could afford to pay her salary. She is an expert at what she does—and she actually planned her career that way [to become a consultant].