By the time the deal goes public, it’s too late. Wheels are already in motion to eliminate redundancies and, when you’re part of the company being acquired, there’s a good chance you’re one of the redundancies. In a heartbeat, you can go from the ranks of the gainfully employed to unemployed.
Even with all of the integration and acquisition planning that happens prior to the close of the deal, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about who’s going to be let go. Best case, they tell you that you’re going to have a spot with the purchasing company. But even then, that doesn’t mean things aren’t subject to change.
Assume the worst. Even if you get reassurance from management that your position is safe today, that doesn’t mean that might not change a few weeks or a few months from now. There are no guarantees. If someone tells you differently, don’t buy it.
The hard part is being in limbo. Should you start looking for another job before management gives you the green light? I say yes. You’ve got to put your own career interests ahead of those of the company. You’ve got too much at stake.
Before you do anything else, make sure your resume is ready for prime time. I always harp on the importance of keeping your resume updated in case something unexpected falls into your lap. Well, it doesn’t get much more unexpected than this.
Don’t waste time feeling bad for yourself or waiting to hear what’s going to happen to your job. The second the news drops (or before if you’re so lucky), get on the phone with everyone in your professional network. Get their take on your job search strategy, companies that might be hiring, and anything else you have questions about.
Reach out to headhunters. Even if you have an amazing network of incredibly helpful and supportive colleagues at other companies who are doing everything they can to help you out, executive search firms often have access to jobs you might otherwise miss.
Best case—everything works out, you keep your job, and you’ve strengthened your network to boot. Worst case—your job gets eliminated but, because you were proactive, you end up weeks ahead of others caught up in the restructuring.
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).