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Career Checkup  (Revised Nov 17, 2023)

Hard-earned advice on evaluating your situation, based on extensive online discussions and private communications with HPAA members. Applies wherever you work.

If leaving or recently left, use our ASAP Checklist.

1. Evaluate your situation.

- Are you in a dying or stagnant segment of your industry? Follow the online magazines and online discussion forums in your field -- don't depend on your employer's marketing and PR materials or other company propaganda.

- Are you in a dying or stagnant organization within your company? To determine where a public company expects to grow and shrink, check the recorded audio or transcripts of the quarterly stock analyst conference calls -- often more revealing than intended. Read the carefully-worded presentation at the start, then the Q-and-A section -- in which stock analysts grill the CEO and CFO. For example: HPInc Investor Site    HPE Investor Site

- Who and where is your current or proposed employer hiring? Run searches by job category and location on the company's career site to see which products, functional areas, and sites are growing. For example: HPInc Job Search    HPE Job Search

- Are you working remotely? "We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be." Link  (Members continue to report that, in many cases, their immediate manager at the time of layoff was someone they had never met in person.)

- Are you in a vulnerable role? "The bulk of the savings will be in corporate functions, back-office support”  HPInc CFO 10/4/19   "We've tried to reduce and be more efficient in the non-customer facing functions." Link    "...de-layering as we right-size the organization... a pretty high overhead structure... We ought to be able to run much leaner and meaner..." Link    "We take out non-revenue generating costs." Link   
"I was working very hard, but I realized that if I didn't go to work next week, no customer would ever know the difference. I managed to shift my job responsibilities" --HPAA member

- Are you getting support from your manager? Your job may be important to the company, or to another business unit, or to another department -- or may have been important in the past -- but may not be important to your current manager, who is trying to execute to the current strategy while reducing headcount and keeping their own job.

- Are you being sent signals? One member decided to go after his manager suddenly started making references to his gray hair in staff meetings.

- Is your current job affecting your physical or mental health? "My doctor and my wife told me to go." "I had been gradually going downhill for years." "I wasn't sleeping because of what I was having to do to my people."

2. Take a hard look at your skills.

- Evaluate your current technical skills. Well-stated in 1992 and even more important today: "HP people should personally accept responsibility and be encouraged to upgrade their skills and capabilities through ongoing training and development. This is especially important in a technical business where the rate of progress is rapid and where people are expected to adapt to change." --HP Way.  A quick way to do this is to analyze the degree requirements and course descriptions on a university website. Could you compete with a new graduate? "I wish I had faced the fact earlier that my knowledge was mostly HP-centric and that my technical skills were out of date." --from What I wish I had known before layoff, retirement, or leaving -- based on input from dozens of HPAA members.

- Move to a growth specialty. For example, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft offer free introductory training on their Cloud platforms. Security is another growth specialty.

- Of the other hand, your knowledge of legacy products may be more valuable to a customer or reseller than to your current company. Unobtrusively ensure that the outsiders you work with know how to contact you personally. (Before updating your LinkedIn profile, click "Me" under your photo > "Settings & Privacy > "How others see your LinkedIn activity" in the left-hand menu > change "Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries from profile" to "No." Otherwise, LinkedIn will notify connected managers and co-workers about your changes with "Congratulate Mary Smith on the new position" if you have merely updated a position description.) LinkedIn Tips and Traps ) LinkedIn doesn't work the way you might think it does!

- Despite your workload and performance, you are not indispensable. The company may decide that your product or project is no longer important, or that the contract you are working under won't be renewed. The company may decide to reduce labor costs in your business unit, or to consolidate the work at another location, or you're just out of fashion...

3. Prepare yourself for a change inside or outside your current employer.

- Update your business computer skills.  Business tools have changed dramatically since we first learned how to use them. Most software books merely describe the screens -- no tips or practical guidance. Pick up the very practical "Internet for Dummies"-- you will be surprised at what has changed since you first got online. Learn how to really make use of your pocket-computer-that-happens-to-make-phone-calls (aka smartphone.)

- Discreetly untangle your personal business from your employer's IT systems. No matter where you work, what your job situation, or how innocent your activities -- there are legal, privacy, and data loss issues with using your employer's IT facilities for your personal business. How and why -- based on personal experiences reported by HP Alumni. https://www.hpalumni.org/PersBus

- Evaluate the image you project. Stand and sit straight. Walk with energy. Don't talk about the good old days or kvetch about the current situation -- even when encouraged. (As Dave Packard said in 1989: "I'm tired of hearing about that damn garage.")

- Check your LinkedIn profile. Even if not currently looking for a job, you need a strong, credible LinkedIn profile. Reconnect with people who know you and your work. Be found by hiring managers, recruiters, and recruiting bots. You can promote your specialized expertise. Your profile may have been automatically changed. Member advice: hpalumni.org/LinkedIn 

- Watch the HPAlumni video "Job Searching for the Mature Worker." Pat Richards from nonprofit NOVA Workforce Services, Sunnyvale, California. Pragmatic, actionable advice. (Not the usual motivational fluff.) Questions and discussion. https://www.hpalumni.org/searching (No password required.)

4. Face the current realities of high tech employment.

- The IT industry is changing. Two macro trends: 1. Traditional IT products and services have become commodities -- resulting in brutal price competition. 2. Standardized, automated cloud-based IT is displacing labor-intensive, customized data-center-based IT -- reducing employment across the industry.

- Investor pressure for short-term results. All public companies are under the same cost-cutting pressure from investors. Investors are being promised that layoffs will continue. Shows up in questions asked in stock analyst calls: Morgan Stanley stock analyst pinned down HPE CFO on increasing layoff savings. Goldman Sachs analyst pressed DXC CEO to increase offshoring percentage.

- Company needs are changing. New technologies and business models require different employee skills. Jobs are being moved to lower-cost countries. Increased use of contract employees. Many functions are simply no longer needed. "...how do you keep up with this next generation of IT and how do you bring people into this company for whom it isn't something they have to learn, it is what they know." (Meg Whitman

- Companies need to make room so that the next generation of employees can advance. "...we need to return to a labor pyramid that really looks like a triangle where you have a lot of early career people who bring a lot of knowledge who you're training to move up through your organization, and then people fall out either from a performance perspective or whatever..." (Link

5. Advice from HPAA members.

Key points raised in online discussions and private communications with HPAA members:

- Staying in a bad job -- or returning to a former employer -- may have long-term career consequences. It can postpone learning new skills or technology, starting over at another company, or changing careers. "You don't want to appear to be only employable by HP." "I could've spent that time working my way up in a new company."

- If you are approached about -- or apply for -- a direct or agency-contract position at an HP-related company, be very clear about your employment history. A recruiter or manager may not know about any formal or informal rehire restrictions -- or may be overly-confident about getting approval. Many report losing critical time and wasting valuable energy on discussions that end abruptly without explanation. If you did not leave under a restructuring program, make that very clear.

- Working through an agency is very different from direct employment. For legal reasons, you are treated differently -- for example, not included in staff meetings or celebrations. People's attitude toward you is different. Easy to get into a situation where, due to what the agency is charging for your services, you are expected to work at a much higher level than you are being paid for. When comparing alternatives, be sure to factor in the reduced benefits.

- "Learn new technologies and remember HP as kind of like college -- it was fun while it lasted."

- "I've done way better as an Azure Cloud consultant than I ever did working at HP."

- "Making less but I now get to spend more of my time doing the part of the work that I love."

- "I wish I had recognized much earlier the futility of my job and what it was doing to me. On the way home after an exhausting day, I bought groceries. I realized that the young man bagging groceries at the store had done more for civilization that day than I had."

- "Now I work for a 200-employee company and can get decisions made same-day."

- "In retrospect being WFR'd was a blessing. It forced me to get out, rethink who I am and what is important. I certainly would not have started my own business without the shove."

- "I wish I would have known that I had greater skills at adapting to my life after HP, resilience in dealing with the transition, and competencies that were valued by others."

- You may find "the companionship you thought you'd miss, the dreams you thought you'd dropped, and the enthusiasm you thought you left back in your youth."

Question? Email: info@hpalumni.org (Will be kept in confidence.)

See also:

- Know someone leaving HP or HPE? Send them this link to our "ASAP Checklist" -- advice from alumni on urgent things to do before losing access to internal systems and in the following weeks. https://www.hpalumni.org/asap  (No password required.)

- Links, advice, and reference info from HPAA members about job searching and career issues.

- "Job Searching for the Mature Worker" -- HPAA video with pragmatic, actionable advice. (Not the usual motivational fluff.)

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