4 failing job search attitudes of people working in small businesses

At a holiday party this past week, I tuned into an interesting career conversation from a person who works at a small business. Essentially, this person didn't believe that they needed readiness to do a job search like bigger companies because only in bigger companies do they do mass layoffs.

This person is capable, competent -- and naive. But getting past the beliefs to convince the person that they need to be ready to find the next job even though they feel secure in the current one is tough.

Let's look at the beliefs stated by this person, working in a company that started 2009 with 29 employees.

I won't get laid off because my impact on the customer is huge

In a smaller company, every employee's interaction with an end customer is bound to be larger than someone working in a 50,000 employee company, no doubt. But just because there are more people interacting with the end customer doesn't mean people won't get laid off -- financial impacts on businesses exist whether the company is large or small. And if the company's customers no longer need the services or products of the company, there is no reason to have the person still there that used to interact with that customer.

I won't get laid off because small companies don't like laying people off

Sure, small companies don't like laying people off -- and, perhaps, even risk going longer to hold on to some employees. But large companies don't like laying people off, even though the reporting of the layoffs make it sound like it is a standardized process with no feelings behind it.

But layoffs are huge distractions to companies and impact the morale of the remaining employees. No one likes to lay off people -- but that doesn't mean companies of any size won't.

I don't need a resume -- I'm not looking for a job

When you have a belief that you won't get laid off and you are not looking for a job, it is somewhat natural to not pay attention to job search essentials.

This belief, one of not needing a resume or thinking that when you do it will simply create itself, is simply disaster for the job seeker. Not in just this job market either. The world has changed and people need to constantly update their accomplishments so they are ready for the next job search.

When asked "what if you got laid off," the answer was that this person would just create their resume, not realizing how much resumes have changed in the last five years and how much performance information needs getting baked into the resume.

I don't need to document my results -- I can get references from my customers

This person produces good stuff on the job -- but you would never know it based on documentation. Without the documentation, it will be difficult to write a resume to include the numbers needed to show performance.

When pressed about how to get the documentation needed if this person was laid off, the answer was that it wasn't needed -- this person will just get references from customers. Casting your fate to the wind is usually not a good idea, but this is simply abdicating control and influence over a job search, if not career.

Customer references are great if you can get them -- but the references fade quickly when looking for results from a year ago. Or a month ago if your customer contact leaves their company and you haven't followed through with getting and keeping contact information.

These attitudes are prevalent; not just in small businesses

Certainly, employees today are much more aware of the fragility of the job market. But, as the saying "it's a recession when someone else loses their job and a depression when you lose yours" goes, the awareness has not translated into action.

Readiness in looking for the next job needs to happen right now. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of the past year, people are complacent right up until they get laid off.

This person's wife isn't worried about her husband getting laid off either. She's worried that at the beginning of 2009, the small company had 29 employees. And today the same company has 18 employees. A layoff? Not a problem. The company going out of business? Yeah, that might happen, but even that isn't motivating enough to get ready to do a job search.

How would you try and convince this person to take action to get ready to look for the next job?

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