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You should know the Rule of 3 June 28, 2011

Posted by John M McKee in "John M McKee", business intelligence, career planning, career success, coaches, Coaching, executive coach, leadership coach, business consultant, career advice, Personal Success, The Plan, Veracity.
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Today, more than ever, it’s important to face up to the idea that your employment or professional success may be impacted by factors beyond your control.  In this blog executive coach John M McKee discusses how to apply a planning approach that’s used successfully by organizations to your own career.

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Headhunters are receiving a lot of resumes these days. 

One I spoke with yesterday told me that her office is being flooded with them while there’s still no dramatic increase in hiring.

2011 is, and will remain, a difficult year.  Depending on which stats you believe, it’s likely that we’ll close the year in the US with about 8.9% reported unemployment, growth for the economy will be about 2.2% in real terms.  For most businesses, the prospects are no more positive.  Clients are developing an attitude of playing it safe and spending – in many cases – the minimum possible.

More than ever before, I’m hearing requests for information and guidance. To boil them down, they are, more or less in one of these areas:

  • How can I guard against ending up as another one of the statistics we’re seeing on the news every day?
  • Are there tools or approaches that one can use to help ensure that (s)he is proactively managing his/her career more assertively?

Here’s one I’ve found to be very successful.  It’s called The Rule of 3. It’s predicated on the premise that nobody should be managing-by-crossed-fingers.

 The Rule of 3 is the opposite of hoping.  You know:  Hoping to not get fired, or Hoping that one’s clients will start buying more, and then Hoping they’ll pay their bills more promptly.  Crossed fingers as a strategy isn’t going to do it.  Much better to buy some lotto tickets.

The Rule works for an individual who’s employed, self-employed, or contracting.  It works for small business and large organizations.

It assumes that none of us is smart enough to ever see everything ahead.

It’s about keeping options open, being thoughtful, and rolling with the natural shifts in cycles.  I suggest you give it some consideration, and noodle about how to apply it to your situation.

So, my advice is – starting today – determine 3 options for your professional life. I’ll use an example of someone who works for an organization to show where these options could be:

1. I have a job and will do whatever it takes to keep it.  For most people, this means stepping-up.  Doing, and being seen and recognized for doing, things beyond which others in similar roles would ever do.  Showing – more than ever – that you’re the one who the company simply must keep even if others have to be laid off.  It could involve more work, more hours, helping out in different areas beyond your role, taking courses to show that you are capable of doing other projects or activities.  You want everyone to know that you, more than anyone else, are a keeper.

2. Accept the reality that you still may lose your job. Despite your best efforts personally, other factors can come into play. The company may go down, or the offices where you work may be shuttered, or your department could be outsourced.

With that as a possibility, now is the time to start planning what the ideal alternative would be.  What I mean is:

  • “If I became victim of this environment, what would my preferred outcome be?
  • If I could choose my next job, what would it be and where would it be?”

Get clear on this and start investigating, while you’re still in your current role, what it would take to get that other job.  It could be internal or with another company or another industry.

Now you’ve got the beginnings of a back-up plan that you could use in the event of the worst case in the current job.  With some groundwork now, you would be in a strong place to move from a sacking to a job you could be happy with.  Start taking actions that will help ensure you will not be immobilized by actions taken by the current employer

3. Recognize that your preferred outcome may not materialize as expected and hoped.  So, you lost your current job and then went after the preferred alternative but your plan didn’t come together as intended.  Now what?  Here’s where the Rule of 3 is even more important because, as ugly as it is, you’ve already contemplated this scenario.  You’ve noodled about other jobs, or sources of income, that you could do and that would keep some cash flowing into your life.  Not necessarily the kind of activity you’d prefer; but it can keep the rent paid and buy you some meatloaf.  Creating this fallback plan while you’re still employed is important because you’re doing it more dispassionately.  Your ego is intact, your common sense more in play.  I once had a company executive tell me his #3 was working at a call center providing service to others.(!)

Hopefully, neither he or you  will never have to use your #3; but creating a plan now that is more likely to help you through the possible worst case scenario will reduce the chances of having to find out.  You are becoming more active in managing your future and increasing the chances of effectively dealing with any problems that may arise.

For more ideas about creating a plan. Check out my new book The Plan.  Right now it’s available as a download at no charge.

Here’s to your future.

John

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