Job Cutters on the Prowl: New managers and executives are the latest targets

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Managers and executives with fewer than 24 months on the job be warned: Job-cutting employers are increasingly targeting you, according to the latest job-search statistics compiled by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The likely consequences? ?By not retaining next-in-line managers and executives, companies are creating a situation that could result in a leadership vacuum and a lot of confused workers,? says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer.

According to his statistics, during the nine-quarter period from April 1, 2001, through June 30, 2003, an average of 24.4 percent of discharged managers and executives spent less than two years with their former employers. That?s 49 percent higher than the average recorded in the nine-quarter period ending March 31, 2001, which, he says, marked the beginning of the recession. In the nine quarters prior to the recession, 16.4 percent of discharged managers and executives were employed for fewer than 24 months. During the last recession, which lasted from July 1990 to March 1991, only 9.5 percent of those discharged had tenures under two years, a figure that is 61 percent lower than the current level.

?The fact that many more short-time executives and managers retained their jobs during the last recession and were allowed to grow as leaders has to be considered a major contributing factor to the huge growth our economy experienced during the mid to late 1990s. Some of these same leaders may now be helping to guide their companies through the current situation, but these corporate leaders have to ask themselves who will be there to take over when they depart,? Challenger says.

Retaining ?corporate memory,? he says, is crucial. ?If the percentage of short-term managers and executives being discharged continues to rise, it will not only create a succession crisis, but it could significantly hinder the transfer of corporate memory?the collective knowledge about a company and all aspects of its operations,? he says. ?Corporate memory is essential in dealing with issues, problems, routines and projects that all businesses deal with daily. It is the ability to make new plans and decisions based in part on what has happened in the past. A depleted core of managers and executives means there is no one to whom to pass this corporate record.?

The short-tenured managers also will be hampered in their search for new positions. ?The first thing hiring managers will see on a resume is that the person?s last job lasted only 24 months before he or she was discharged,? says Challenger. ?Prospective employers may wonder why this person was unable to demonstrate his or her indispensability.?

Changing course

So what do you do when you get laid off and can?t find another job in your field? Find a new field. According to CareerJournal.com, the Wall Street Journal?s executive career site, many workers are doing just that. ?A career change makes sense if you can?t find employment in your chosen field and you want to move forward professionally,? says Tony Lee, editor in chief of CareerJournal.com. ?Now is a good time to think about job opportunities you?d enjoy and start developing skills that are in demand.”

But, Lee says, first you need to prepare for the big switch. ?Career change is a transition that begins with a self-assessment and then moves toward taking practical steps to land a job in the new field.? CareerJournal.com offered these tips:

? Review your skills and understand how they can be applied in a different setting;
? Explore your options, set goals and make plans to develop yourself to fit your new path;
? Acquire new skills by returning to school;
? Do something you enjoy;
? Gain skills from volunteering;
? Revise your resume to reflect your new skills.