Staying Relevant While Away from the Office
In today's economy, there are many reason's to be out of the office, or OOO. Reasons for being OOO include, but aren't limited to: being laid off, staying at home with young children, going back to school, illness, etc.
Essentially, either by choice or by necessity. Having been laid off myself, and subsequently unemployed, in 2009, I have a unique perspective on the situation and I wish I'd known then what I know now.
Assuming your end-goal after your time OOO is to re-gain employment, staying educated and practiced are key. If you've ever taken a pre-planned and pre-scheduled vacation only to have it land in the middle of a long project you know what I'm talking about. There is little worse than working hard for weeks or months only to know you've got to hand over your project to someone else. When you return, you have to re-educate yourself on the details of the project and catch up on the developments that occurred while you were gone.
Now take this scenario and extend your “vacation” to 1, 2, … 5 months. How about that many years? The project is no longer yours. What do you do? Depending on how long you were away, you may have to come to the hard realization that not only did “your” project get completed without you, but someone else got the credit, the promotion, the raise and that the world moved on.
Here are a few ways you can stay relevant, both to your industry and to your peers, while you're Out of the Office.
Staying educated – In order to pick up where you left off, you need to be as on top of current issues as you were before. You may remember everything from the day you left and went OOO, but the world has since changed.
For example, imagine you left the workforce in 2006 and stayed at home gaining minimal knowledge of the outside world. (I know this is an extreme example but extremes tend to work best when making points). If you went underground in 2006 only to emerge in 2012 you'd be blown away and completely confused by Netflix, Facebook and the iPhone, among other things. Those 3 things have completely and totally revolutionized the entire world.
While those are big and global examples (that extreme I mentioned) think about if you went to a job interview as a nurse. How much has changed in the world of medicine in 5 years? Healthcare laws come to mind.
What about as an attorney? How many laws have been written, rewritten and thrown out in the past 5 years?
One last example, and I promise this'll be it. What about if you were in IT sales, like me? If I'd stayed underground post lay-off in 2009, I'd not know about tablets, the “cloud”, or be able to have conversations about current technology.
Staying educated, up-to-date, and current in your industry is critical to successfully minimizing the gap between yester-year and today's job market. Read. Learn. Study. Be ready to get back in the office whenever you decide its time.
Staying practiced – While you were OOO,
everyone else career-minded leaders were networking, honing their skills and developing themselves. So, what can you do?
1: Network. The world has given us Facebook and LinkedIn as a way to keep in contact with and keep up with almost everyone we know or have ever known. Just remember, once it's on the internet, it never goes away. Ever. Monitor your online personal brand and stay in contact with potential future bosses and co-workers.
2: Create something. While you may not be actively going into an office during the week, you can still contribute to the workforce, your chosen industry, your company and your peers.
Read about your topic of choice and apply that knowledge to adding value to those around you. At the very least your resume won't show ” ” (that's a blank) for the time you're away. It could show “Associate Editor for website.org” or “Senior Contributor at relevant-blog.com”.
3: Eat. Everyone has to eat, even future bosses and future co-workers. Meet them for lunch and keep up the practice of “industry-speak”. Many companies I've worked for use abbreviations and acronyms as words in everyday conversations. Keep quarterly lunch meetings with key contacts so you practice the language of your industry.
Staying practiced will allow you to be better prepared for that first interview back that you got by remaining connected. You'll be educated and prepared and able to speak their language with ease.