With a potential 35,0000 jobs at risk in the PI sector, Nicholas Harrison explains how claims professionals can prepare for a career change
The Government’s confirmation that reforms to low value personal injury cases will go ahead has seen an increase in the number of people worried about their careers.
According to research consultancy Capital Economics, as quoted in The Law Society Gazette, as many as “80% of the 44,000 people involved in the sector, including lawyers, insurers, claims management companies and medical reporting agencies, will be put out of work if reforms go ahead”.
It appears such concerns are not mere figments of the imagination. Oldham-based personal injury firm, Mellor Hargreaves, entered into administration earlier this summer due to the ‘increasing pressure’, on the sector. 15 people were left unemployed.
Opportunities may be found in other organisations, lawyers for example could move to other firms or possibly find in-house positions, but if we see an increase in the number of businesses closing, then opportunities to carry on doing what you do will become scarcer. When an entire sector is at risk this increases the need for people to make a transition between sectors, it is no longer about changing employer. This situation can be highly stressful, and people who find themselves dealing with this problem can find themselves staring into a visionless future.
So, what can you do to prepare yourself in case you need to find something different to do?
Self-awareness and networking
What we tend to do is listen to everyone else’s opinions on what we have to offer and what we should do. We manage, after a struggle, to find our rather dusty and out-of-date CV, we look at on-line job vacancies, and we meet up with old colleagues and other business contacts to start our ‘networking’.
I would like to suggest an alternative way, because this way of approaching a job search can be quite disheartening – especially if you don’t know what you want to do.
Many people in your situation are, understandably, focused on resolving ‘how do I get a job?’ but neglect to take a step back and identify who you are and what it is that you really wish to do.
It’s worth investing time in a self-exploration phase in order to find the right career for you, and in addition, it is the key to being able to demonstrate your value to another sector. Each one of us has a unique and individual vision, mission and purpose. Sadly, we are not taught at a young age how to find the meaning to our lives, and coupled with pressing demands to pay for rent, education, food, travel etc. we have been persuaded to believe that our number one priority is a decent salary.
Thus, any self-reflection is seen as a luxury and something that is often the preserve of the retired. I believe (having played a small part in the transitions of hundreds of people) that we should be doing all we can to pursue a career that lets us feel truly happy, energised, valued and productive. If we understand where such a sense of ‘well-being’ can be found, then financial reward will also be found there.
If you look around your office, or read the business brochure, you will no doubt see the corporate mission statement and corporate vision. What I am suggesting, is that you allow yourself an opportunity to realise your own calling, and to become the architect of your own future. ‘Self-awareness’ also creates better leaders and managers, so it is definitely a journey that can benefit you in more ways than just when looking to change jobs.
It may sound a bit silly, but I prefer to talk about ‘Connectworking’, rather than ‘networking’. The latter sounds like you are trapping people into your web of need. When we reach out to people, who we have not perhaps spoken to for a while, with the intention of getting them to help us find a job, it can create an aggressive situation and place you in a position where you could be devalued.
Try to keep in touch with people on a more regular basis and offer them something. It could be as simple as emailing them an article you have read and feel may be of interest to them, or it may be responding to one of the daily call-outs by people asking for advice on social media.
My LinkedIn page is stuffed with people asking if any of their contacts know someone who does such and such or if we can recommend someone with a specific expertise. Try, in other words, to make networking a bilateral entity and not merely a means to an end. I would recommend that from now on you also make an effort to have a quick cup of coffee with someone different within your network on a regular basis, just to keep relationships alive.
Hopefully, such an approach will also let you realise the value in having fewer but more effective contacts, rather than adding everyone to your contacts list.
Explore the world for yourself
I am forever hearing people say things like, ‘I have been told that (insert specific sector/role) is not for me/boring/pays badly, etc…’ Can I be radical and suggest you find out for yourself?
I have lost track of the number of clients who have said similar things and after a suggestion from me to “go and make up your own mind”, have returned to say that they were surprised and that what they looked at was entirely different to their preconceived ideas. There are so many factors that make individual organisations different such as the environment, culture, values etc. that you cannot see one organisation as the epitome of an entire sector.
Sometimes, clients come back and say, “Told you so! It really wasn’t for me!” and we agree that they were right, but we also agree how much more they have learned about themselves and most importantly, by seeing what is wrong for you, you learn more about what is right for you, which in turn helps you sell yourself better when the right opportunity arises. So, finding out it’s not for you is good; never having a look is not good!
Build your personal brand
Whether we like it or not, we are all ultimately commodities, a product that people either wish to buy into or not.
Like all products we need to be marketed, we need to sell what we do, as well as how we do it.
We all have a brand, it is something that develops as we get older and as we acquire new experiences and skills, and our brand is inextricably linked to the self-concept, i.e. who we believe we are and how the rest of the world sees us.
There was a time when our brand was articulated primarily through speech, the bad stuff we used to call gossip. Nowadays, social media has become the proverbial grapevine, and at the click of a button our opinions and knowledge can be picked up all over the world. Such power needs to be managed as well as optimized. I suggest we all review our on-line presence, check that our professional profiles are aligned to our career goals, use blogs to demonstrate our capabilities, and provide content for industry journals.
I have merely given some very basic level thoughts, which I hope will get you thinking about your future from possibly a slightly different approach.
Perhaps the situation will not become the PI Armageddon we have been warned it will, perhaps it will. What I do not need a crystal ball for is to know that at some stage we will all encounter a transition. Change can come about at any time and often when we least expect it. Whether it is change within your family, your health, your education or career, it is vital that we all remain in control.
Fulfillment, and a sense of well-being can be greatly increased by gaining clarity on who we are and direction in what and where we wish to go. By achieving these two steps of the journey we can ensure the foundations to our lives are based on concrete and not ever-shifting and instable foundations of sand.
Nicholas Harrison is a transitions specialist and creator of the Transperformance™ philosophy, which helps people manage periods of change better. He provides one-to-one coaching as well as delivering in-house workshops for employees. www.transperformance.net 07884 365 054