Keeping Your Career On-Track When Your Company Hits a Crisis

Although businesses face challenges almost daily, recent evidence suggests that full-blown corporate crises are on the rise. In addition, it seems that, when it comes to hitting unexpected obstacles, tech firms are especially prone to blind spots.
Management’s reactions to an unexpected calamity can impose harsh penalties on the careers of hard-working tech employees. You need to be prepared to keep your career on track should your company find itself embroiled in a debilitating crisis.

Stay Visible and Connected

Many of the techniques that corporations use to respond to a crisis can also benefit employees. For instance, the three key elements of a crisis communication plan (acknowledge the issue, stay visible and communicate with outsiders) also apply to employees.
If something very bad hits your company, you’ve hopefully been staying in touch with the members of your ever-expanding professional network. If not, this is the perfect time to reconnect, explained Mike Manoske, a career coach and veteran recruiting leader based in Silicon Valley. (Review the rules for reconnecting if you’ve completely lost touch with a contact.)
However, you don’t want to badmouth the company (or come across as desperate) when you broach the subject of your company’s dilemma, Manoske added.
He suggests that you say something along the lines of: “As you probably have heard, my company is facing some issues. I’m hanging in there, and we’re still getting stuff done, but I’m glad that we’re staying in touch.”

Be the Adult in the Room

Don’t ignore gossip, but don’t contribute to it. Staying calm under pressure will help you focus on your career and make better decisions.
Plus, positioning yourself as a rational problem-solver and seizing opportunities to propose changes to algorithms or enhanced security can leave you in a stronger position once the chaos subsides. You may even be able to score a raise or promotion, as some companies will go to great lengths to retain top performers during a crisis.
If you’re not happy with management’s decisions or their integrity, don’t hunker down and hope for the best, advised Jennine Heller, a San Francisco-based executive coach. A crisis is an opportunity to recognize mistakes and improve—but it can also do untold damage if it isn’t handled correctly.
“Discuss the situation with your colleagues and work together to change things from within,” Heller suggested. “If you’ve turned a blind eye to the issues, acknowledge your mistakes, but you are within your rights to ask for and expect accountability from management.”

Escape by Moving Forward

Ideally, you were already plotting your next career move before the crisis set in. If not, it’s critical to start planning for a possible exit by proactively targeting a new role and making a list of influential contacts and potential employers as soon as possible. Depending on your skillset, being one of the first employees to hit the market in the aftermath of a corporate crisis can give you the edge over your competitors. You’ll also maintain career momentum.
Use scenario analysis to consider a range of possible outcomes from the crisis. Understanding where the company is headed and realistically assessing the positive and negative impact on your career can reduce your anxiety levels and keep you from feeling stuck or making a hasty emotional decision to leave. How will the loss of customers, user confidence or funding impact your company’s future and your career?
“It’s gut-check time,” Heller said. “What will be your breaking point? What are you willing to do and not do? When your career goals, projects or personal ethics no longer align with your company’s values, it’s time to leave.”
In addition, keep an eye on your expanding workload as your colleagues and managers depart, Manoske warned. Don’t allow yourself to stay trapped in a demanding job where there is no upward growth, unless you are acquiring skills and experience that will enhance your marketability.
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