Money Minding: Health, Wealth & Change in the U.P. Workplace, by Tawni Hunt Ferarrini, Economist

In today’s dynamic economy, everyone can expect job change.  Some of us will be asked to acquire new skills on the job or find ways to be more productive in our current positions as people retire, relocate, or expire.  Others will be released from present jobs, leaving them to seek new ones.  Have a strategic plan that takes changes like these into account.  Minimize stress.  And, live a healthier and happier life.

Evidence of job change over the last year is present in our local community.  Recently, 300 miners were laid off at the Empire Mine.  160 of the 300 did so voluntarily.  Upfront & Company closed its doors last fall, releasing 70 plus workers into the local workforce. Over the past couple of months, Rio Tinto has slowed its progress toward active production at its Eagle Mine.  11 workers were laid off and others landed jobs elsewhere.  Northern Michigan University has been peppered with a rash of retirements.  New people are coming on board, changing the working environment.  Whether employed at one of these businesses or not, everyone should anticipate some impact of this movement on our overall economy, local businesses, and households.  Just like devising and putting into action a plan to eat and exercise regularly for healthy living, there are things you can do to prepare for job change in your life and the lives of others.  Different perspectives are considered below.

The ordinary person like you and me is likely to face unemployment at some point, so it’s best to prepare.  Many financial experts recommend setting aside three to six months’ worth of expenses in a rainy day or emergency savings fund.  This serves as a safety net when you’re out of work.  It should be easily accessible and secure.  That is, placed in something like a tax-free savings account.  Devise and follow a budget for allocating those funds during your rainy days. Use emergency funds strategically and prudently.  First focus on meeting your mortgage or rent payment.  Do the same with other debt obligations.  Do not take on new debt to “get by.” Doing so will negatively impact your credit history, which some employers view to gain a more comprehensive view of your ability to manage a variety of affairs in a variety of circumstances.  Drastically reduce, if not eliminate, your expenditures on wants and luxury items.  Focus on your needs – basic food, clothing and shelter. Pull in your belt.  Entertain and feed yourself and others at home instead of going out.  Narrow your cell plan to the basics.  Drive less and car pool or bike to work.  Work out at home instead of using a personal trainer at a gym.  The list goes on.

Update your resume.  Map out a plan of action to find and secure a job that is a good match for you and your new employer.  Complete a free massive open online course (MOOC) to update your skills, complete a self-study course, or enroll in a college class.  Find a way to refresh your skills in ways meaningful to businesses looking for new people to bring into their fold.

Get excited, go out and find a new job!  If you don’t know where to start or are having trouble finding a good fit, lean on one of our numerous local resources.  Consider Michigan Works, the Job Force Board.  Visit where you can look for a job, explore the current job market, devise a career plan, and seek new skills that fit the needs of the current market.  If necessary, apply for unemployment, but understand that by not doing so, you incentivize yourself to find a job as soon as possible and prospective employers are impressed by those individuals who elect not to tap into unemployment compensation.  The name of the game is to signal to others that you can meet and exceed their expectations.

If you are currently employed, looking for new challenges, or expecting changes in co-workers and/or skill requirements, do the same as our unemployed counterparts.  Refresh your resume.  Get your financial house in order.  And devise and implement a plan to remain current, if not ahead, of present-day job conditions.

Job change is part of the current U.S. labor force’s fabric.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many people can expect an average of eleven jobs in their lifetime.  Be prepared for change and stay on top of the changes in the labor market.  Get ahead of the movement by refreshing your resume, updating your job skills, gaining experience serving in leadership roles in volunteer or religious organizations, and finding a mentor to help you navigate through these changes.  Doing so will minimize insecurity stemming from not being prepared to face change.  Less insecurity translates into less stress, which helps you live a happier life.  Preparing for a period of unemployment, and being able to live comfortably through it, helps you live a wealthier life over time.  A happier, healthier and wealthier you also helps others in your family/friend network and work.

Tawni Ferrarini is co-author of Common Sense Economics (2010) published by St. Martin’s Press.  She is a PhD in economics and is published in numerous peer reviewed journals.  She speaks globally on topics related to advancing literacy in economics, entrepreneurship and personal finance.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.