managemnet company strategy managemanet How to Advance Your Career When Your Company Is Downsizing

How to Advance Your Career When Your Company Is Downsizing

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Advancing your career during a company downsizing requires a change in your thinking and actions. In this article, the author offers five strategies to turn adversity into a stepping stone for your professional growth: 1) Reframe your thinking. 2) Fill the vacuum. 3) Look for quick wins. 4) Negotiation for later. 5) Make a side move.

As an operations director of a manufacturing company, Marlow is on the rise. In the past year, his team has doubled in size, thanks in large part to his ability to shepherd them through turbulent change and drive several key supply-chain initiatives.

Marlow’s results and dedication positioned him for an exciting opportunity – a newly created role as vice president of process optimization. A promotion is a goal he is focused on and represents an opportunity to make a greater impact while shaping the future of the company.

Unfortunately, just as Marlow was on the cusp of this major career move, the market tanked and the company’s profits quickly fell. In the face of economic challenges, difficult decisions must be made. Marlow’s once thriving team has been cut in half, and to make matters worse, the vice president position he had so eagerly anticipated has been eliminated. He finds himself at a crossroads, wondering how to proceed if his dreams seems to have derailed.

Many leaders and professionals find themselves in Marlow’s position — feeling frustrated and uncertainty how to advance their careers while their companies are shrinking. It’s no wonder when layoffs happen nearly five times by 2023 with no end to financial instability in sight.

Organizations are always looking for ways to cut costs and their bottom line. While that may mean disruptive changes like spending freezes and job layoffs, it doesn’t have to destroy your career prospects. In fact, it can be a springboard for growth. Here’s how to navigate the pitfalls that come with cost-cutting measures and come out stronger.

Reframe your thinking.

Experiencing different emotions – sadness, anger, self doubt – naturally in times of organizational chaos. But shutting down, avoiding the situation, and feeling on your own will get you nowhere and leave you feeling stuck. Instead, accept change and uncertainty as part of the job description.

Whether the reason is technological progress, changing market dynamics, or changing customer expectations, companies are changing their structure. at a fast pace. You must be ready for changes big and small at any time. Difficult times reveal your character and where your leadership is most needed. You can choose to adopt the perspective of seeing turmoil as a crucible moment that presents an opportunity to deliver value and emerge as a strong, influential leader who drives positive change.

Fill the vacuum.

Raise and fill the void created by shifting the sands. Change can be disruptive, and that’s why resilience becomes important. Align your efforts with the company’s new priorities, which typically include a focus on core offerings, cost containment, and operational efficiency, as well as employee and customer retention.

Despite the setbacks he faced, Marlow quickly learned the importance of cutting costs during the downturn and had a laser-like focus on the core areas of the business. Marlow realigned his team’s efforts on essential operations only. Placing several innovation projects was a difficult decision, but Marlow’s ingenuity caught the eye of senior management, who appreciated his display of strategic priority.

Look for quick wins.

In troubled times, everyone is looking for a savior. Morale and confidence are likely to crumble down the chain, from junior employees to the C-suite. By identifying — and quickly acting on — areas for improvement, you can position yourself as a valuable asset, someone who gets results while pursuing the company’s best interests.

Find ways to make a tangible impact in less time. For example, you can:

  • Renegotiation of supplier contract
  • Find a cheaper way to source materials
  • Collaborate with other departments to save resources
  • Implement automation to streamline a process
  • Launch your product to an untapped customer segment
  • Create a campaign to promote repeat purchases

Negotiations for later.

After the VP role was dissolved, Marlow explained to his manager that he understood the company’s financial limitations and why the process optimization role he had expected was eliminated. He then proposed a way forward that balanced the needs of the organization while keeping his long-term goals in mind.

“While I know that major changes may not be possible right now, I would like to discuss the possibility of changing my coverage down the road,” he said. “I can carry out the responsibilities of X now, but with a commitment to explore opportunities in the domain of process optimization in the future when the market improves.”

Like Marlow, you also want to read the room. Now may not be the time to ask for a big change in your role, responsibilities, or compensation, but you can try to get a commitment for later. For example, “I’m happy to compete with X now, as long as there’s a commitment to repeat my range down the road.” Or “I want to help, but my ultimate goal is to go in the Y direction. When do you think you can make it happen?”

Make a side movement.

While up-and-to-the-left career advancement may be limited during a downsizing, lateral moves can still provide opportunities to learn new skills and gain new experiences. A sideways move allows you to expand your skillset, which improves your versatility and makes you a more valuable asset to the organization. Let’s say you’re in a sales role. A sideways move to the product development team can give you a deep understanding of the product development process, market research, and customer needs analysis. Offering your marketing insights means the company can better adapt their offerings to market demands.

Moving later also exposes you to new colleagues and expands your professional network. This can open the door to collaboration on future projects, teaching opportunities, and access to wider knowledge about internal politics. Additionally, it exposes you to new stakeholders, decision makers, and senior leaders. The more people you know – and more people know you — more opportunities will come your way.

Advancing your career during a company downsizing requires a change in your thinking and actions. By adopting these strategies, you can turn adversity into a springboard for professional growth.

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