At the end of 2022, major layoffs grew as companies made an effort to cut costs and operate more efficiently during an economic downturn.
As a consultant, changes to the internal team you were working with can cause a huge disruption to your project. You were cranking out great work and all of a sudden, your manager, the person who brought you on board, tells you they’re not with the company anymore.
How do you manage what happens next? EMers share tips for increasing the odds for landing butter side up when facing a change in regime.
Create a New Opportunity
Early in my career, when a manager left, I would get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, wondering if that meant I’d soon be getting the boot. But eventually, I began to see it as a career opportunity.
What happened was that I often kept working for the new manager, building a new relationship and adding them to my network of hiring managers. On top of that, the departing manager would often ask me to join them at their new company. Of course it doesn’t always work out this way, but if you can manage to make it happen enough times, eventually you’ll build a network of hiring managers big enough to keep you as busy as you want to be. This is essentially how I grew my business.
It's important to build strong relationships with your current team but also with anyone you’re working with cross-functionally. That way if the sponsor leaves and the new person comes in, the stakeholders can say, "She's really been an incredible partner and we need to keep her."
To build these kinds of relationships, I make sure I set clear expectations and maintain a high bar for my work so that I can meet or exceed these expectations. I also focus on bringing an outside or customer-centric perspective to deliver greater value.
When people have worked within an organization for awhile, it’s easy to get caught up in institutional ways of thinking about how things are or have been, which blocks creativity and innovation. Use your role as a consultant to your advantage by sharing insights and offering an alternative point of view where it’s appropriate. This reinforces the unique value you bring to the organization.
More than once, this has enabled me to survive an organizational or managerial change because my colleagues were willing to step up and speak to the ways that I brought unique value to the organization.
Expand Your Scope
One of the things that I've been able to do pretty successfully is find additional work from other managers within the company. That way if one contact leaves, I've got people in other departments that see the value I can bring into the organization. Sometimes it is easier to do this in small and medium companies than in larger organizations, where it can be more challenging to determine what projects and priorities are in process across other areas of the company, but the outreach is the same. If I’ve got bandwidth I’ll reach out to another marketing team or business unit and say, "Hey, I just heard from my sponsor that you guys are working on this project. I've got some extra time and would be happy to help. Here's the experience I have in this area and can bring to the team."
Attach Yourself to the Project
Attach yourself to the project, not to the manager. Of course you have some loyalty to the manager and you continue to maintain that relationship, but I make sure that the company knows that, "Hey, I'm here to finish the project. The company brought me in for that purpose."
Sometimes I can ask the manager, "How can we keep the project alive?" They may say, "This person is going to become the sponsor." Then you build a relationship with that other person.
Sometimes, your time has come. Your client leaves and you leave. Do a very good job with transition. Document everything, and make sure everybody who is going to carry on has what they need. I've had it happen where I do a good job with transition and two weeks later, the company says, "We want to rehire you because we haven't figured out how to do this," or "We really like how you handled that. Maybe we'll hire you in the future."
Reapply for the Job
Working at startups and small companies, I've actually been through this four times: the founder or the head of marketing — that's usually my point of contact — will end up leaving the company at some point as the company starts to grow. The first time it happened, I figured they’d bring in a new marketing person, and since they were hiring senior leadership, that person would probably bring in their own people.
But, I reached out to the new head of marketing anyhow, and said, "Hey, I've been working with your predecessor. Here's all the work I did. I'd love to get on the phone and talk about how we can continue to work together." It’s worked every time, including one time when after working for the new person for a while, I ultimately decided I didn’t want the gig anymore because the expectations had changed.
Ask for a Warm Handoff... But There’s No Guarantee
I worked with one CMO who took a new job and he brought me in there as well. Then about three weeks later, he moved on to a new job. But he had given me a warm introduction to the people I’d be working with. I started doing stuff well and so it was a really nice handoff. A year later, I was still working with both companies.
I've also had experiences where I've gone in and done a really good job, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on their ad spend. Then the marketing leadership changed, and I was thanked for the work I had done, and was gone shortly thereafter. I don't think there's anything I could have done.
At another gig, my sponsor left the company, a new person came in, "cleaned house" and brought in a more expensive agency to do what I'd been doing. It's a mixed bag, but when those transitions happen, try to get out in front of it. See what you can do, who the different players are, and advocate for yourself to continue in your role.
Editor's Note: This post was originally authored and published by Lynn Bruno in January 2022 and has been edited to reflect the current business environment.