Get Career Insurance

Get Career Insurance

Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

Do you believe in the importance of insurance? Do you have insurance for your health, auto, home and life? The answer is probably yes. People purchase insurance so that they are protected in case there is a sudden or unexpected catastrophe. When is the best time to buy insurance? Before the catastrophe occurs.

Now, let''s switch gears. Do you have "career insurance"? Have you done something to protect your career in the event that the unexpected catastrophe occurs? In other words, what is going to happen if you are fired, laid off or unemployed?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but corporate layoffs and firings are a fact of life in corporate America. And I''m getting lots of letters, e-mails and resumes from people who have either lost their jobs or realize that their current positions are tenuous. Unless you''ve got a really great golden parachute, you need career insurance.

Frankly, having talked to audiences around the country, I am surprised at how few people recognize there is a distinct possibility that their job is at risk and that they need to be continually "purchasing" career insurance so that they will have options and alternatives.

If you are interested in purchasing some career insurance, the first thing you need to do is expand your network of personal and professional contacts. How do you do that? For starters, pick two worthwhile business organizations, one that is industry specific, and the other that is a general business organization, and join those organizations and then show up and get involved.

Let me share some interesting observations with you. I am on the boards of several national transportation and logistics organizations and I''m active in several other national industry groups so I have some good information about how many members each organization has. It''s an amazingly depressing number. If you were to add up all of the members belonging to groups such as the National Industrial Transportation League, National Small Shipments Traffic Conference, Council of Logistics Management, Warehousing Education and Research Council, Transportation Intermediaries Association (to name just a few), and throw in the members of industry-specific groups, on the generous side, you''ll find that less than 15 percent of the professionals in our industry belong to at least one of the professional trade associations. And if you then looked at the number of individuals who actually show up and get involved, the number drops to under 5 percent.

Here is my point: a whole bunch of people are ignoring the importance of developing a network of contemporaries and associates they can plug into for help when the unexpected occurs.

The second thing you can do to insure your career is make an active commitment to learning and enhancing your professional capabilities. When I talk to educators and people in logistics organizations that run educational programs, the numbers are sobering. Years ago, a dear friend, Dr. Bud LaLonde, made an observation that if you weren''t investing at least 200 hours per year in continuing education activities, you''d run the risk of being obsolete in three to five years. So if you''re interested in insuring your career, make a commitment to continuing education.

Before going any further, let me take a step back and answer the objections I commonly hear when I give speeches on this topic. At the top of the list is: "I don''t have time to network or invest in continuing education activities." Every time I hear this, I smile and think, "Neither do I, but I still do it," because I need to purchase some career insurance. If you conclude that you can''t afford it, here is a sobering question: how important is your career?

For the "time challenged," let me offer a simple fact. We all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day! The issue isn''t time, it''s priorities! We typically spend time on that which is important to us. I''ve met people who have told me they don''t have any time for educational pursuits in their career, yet they can tell me all about the last episode of "Survivor" and what''s happened with their favorite sports teams. Like I said: we spend our time on what is important to us.

A little over one year ago, I received a call from a very nice person, a former customer who had recently lost his job as the director of logistics for a good-sized company. Over lunch, he explained what had happened. I learned that his termination caught him by surprise. He had received very good evaluations and thought he was doing a great job for the company. But now here he was, a man in his mid-fifties, on the street looking for a job with very few prospects.

When I asked him about his network, he told me he belonged to one professional association, but he hadn''t attended a single event for this association in several years. So now, in his moment of need, his network was basically carrier sales reps and former suppliers. He told me with a sense of regret that, "I was always too busy to invest in and protect my own career. I should have taken the time to invest in myself." In other words, he was saying: "I should have bought some career insurance!"

So here is some advice for all you hard-working types who are committed to giving your company 110 percent - even if it means leaving no time for your pursuit of career insurance: you''re taking a very big risk!

The typical company will take as much as you want to give - and more. And if there comes a day when your "ticket gets punched," they may say nice things and give you a wonderful severance package. But one thing they can''t do is buy you insurance for your career. You''re the only one who can make that purchase.

-- Regan is chief executive officer of Transzact Systems.