I had lunch last week with a senior HR Manager who was contemplating leaving her job after more than 20 years with a large corporation. I'm having trouble living with the disconnect between what the company claims are its core values, and how it is handling staff relations during this recession. She went on to describe a litany of incidents, from a service agent who was terminated after revealing she had cancer, to an entire team that was being laid off so that the division director could meet his cost-cutting targets for his performance bonus.

In a recent LinkedIn Q&A, Jeff Lefevre, Managing Partner and Founder, JTL Services, posed the question: Over the past 6 months employees have seen a drastic attitude change from their managers. This attitude of 'well be happy you have a job' is wearing thin. Have you noticed this change?

I responded that, based on what I'm hearing from my clients and contacts, there is going to be a tsunami of job searching once the economy picks up, and some of the most active job hoppers are likely to be HR personnel who are disgusted with how companies have chosen to treat their staff.

More than a few people, from both HR and non-HR backgrounds, contacted me directly to applaud my answer and reiterate my observations. In one contact's words, a huge changeover in staff is coming, and I don't think management understands exactly how deep into the organization this discontent has spread.

If you are considering making a career change once the economy picks up, be proactive.

Don't wait for a tipping point incident. Take control now by mapping out your career plans for the next six months to two years and equipping your job search arsenal.

  1. Take some time to think about your personal and professional values. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. It is much easier to figure out whether a new company or position is going to be a good fit for you if you are really clear about what is important to you.
  2. Go through your files and start collecting the material for your resume: projects, positive feedback, performance reviews, KPI reports, anything that you can use to support your success stories.
  3. Define your value proposition - what are the key strengths, expertise and experience that you have to offer.
  4. Investigate companies that you would like to work for. Go beyond the financials. Listen to what current employees are saying. A good source for getting the inside scoop on how employees feel about their company is the anonymous reviews in the www.glassdoor.com.
  5. Look at who is hiring in your target job market, and what qualifications they are looking for. Determine whether you need training or credential upgrades in order to be more marketable.
  6. Create at least two versions of your resume. I recommend having a detailed resume that can be easily customized to apply for specific job openings, as well as a one-page high-impact synopsis that is better suited for networking.
  7. Get a non-business email account, if you don't already have one.
  8. Bring your LinkedIn profile up to date, and claim your web identity on Naymz and ZoomInfo.
  9. Identify and join the LinkedIn groups and industry associations that will best support you in your career transition. Start following the discussions. Stay current on the key issues, news, and trends in the industry. Find out who the people to know are.
  10. Make networking a priority. Find time in your calendar to make at least one new contact per week. Focus not on what they can do for you, but what you can do for them.
  11. Reconnect with colleagues from the past. It is much easier to network and reconnect when you don't have the pressure of need a job right now hanging over you like an invisible sign.
  12. Not comfortable with networking? Learn how. Consider seminars such as Breaking Down Silos, where you can get some practical tools and strategies for successful networking without feeling like a snake oil salesman.

Taking control of your career plans has two positive benefits. One, it can help to minimize the sense of powerlessness that comes with being stuck in an unfulfilling job. Two, it will ensure that, when the right opportunity comes along, you have the tools in your arsenal to land your next great job.