Hudson’s Bay is buying Sak’s; two global advertising agencies are merging and drugmaker Perrigo is acquiring Elan. As these headlines and others indicate, the mergers and acquisition business may be heating up.
Media and entertainment companies, telecomms and health care sectors all registered double digit increases in buyouts in the first half of 2013, according to Thompson Reuters data. Real estate firms also felt the urge to merge. Overall, mergers and acquisitions grew 34 percent in the United States, but slowed in Europe and in many emerging economies.
If you’re in a sector that suddenly has merger fever, you could be headed for a buyout or a possible pink slip – or a drastic change in job assignment. To be sure, not every merger results in big job reductions, but many do trim staffs and cut out redundancies.
So instead of keeping up on the latest rumors of buyouts, build your network and start on your Plan B. Start as the first word of a merger leaks out.
To safeguard your future and keep your career on track, here’s half dozen approaches that work while your bosses make deals:
- Gather your goodness. Make copies of all performance reviews, letters of commendation, awards, praise notes, etc. Also include any employee newsletters that mention your team’s successes or any committee that really moved the needle for your organization. Send them to a personal email address or take copies home with you.
- Tune up your ‘search engine.’ List crucial job – hunt tasks and take a few vacation days to complete them. It takes time and energy to redo your resume, add pop to your LinkedIn profile and work on your pitch. So skip the long weekend at the lake, and go to your first networking event or job fair while using a personal day or vacation time.
- Reach out to your network. “Stay in touch with everybody,” including those who are departing the company already, said Robert Hellmann, a Five O’Clock career coach. See who you know at the acquiring company and build your connections there. Locate employer alumni groups on LinkedIn or elsewhere and join in the conversation. More Hellmann tips are in my Glassdoor post on mergers.
- Identify winners and survivors. Look at your company for any oasis or islands of prosperity – and make friends there. Figure out who is likely to keep their job and who may gain more responsibility in a restructuring or buyout. Those people are the keys to staying employed or setting up contract or freelance assignments.
- Start a stealth search. Do this in your off hours or at lunch. Do this diligently but discretely. If a recruiter calls you in the middle of the day, schedule a phone interview for after work. More advice on this from my Washington Post article.
- Show your value. A buyout can take months to complete and so can a job hunt. So stay engaged in your current job. Take initiative and show strong results. “Be visible. Be essential. Go above and beyond your little job,” said Hellmann. This could make you one of the survivors who stay after the deal is done.
- Get good at selling yourself. This may mean a lot of practice with an old friend or a mentor, or your job search buddy. It may mean overcoming your aversion to boasting or your shyness around people you don’t know. When you’re searching for a new job, “basically you’re in sales. You’re selling yourself,” executive coach Marshall Goldsmith once told me.
The biggest mistake is to sit, watch, waiting and wondering, Hellmann said. Even if you would welcome a severance offer, dig up information on industry norms and what your company and the acquiring firm have offered in previous mergers or downsizings. ”You’ve got to be one step ahead of the game in the job market,” he said.
A portion of this post appeared on WorkingKind in February 2011.