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What if everything goes south?

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

You can't plan for everything.

But this past month should give you pause to think about how two kinds of events can affect your career big time if you're not thinking ahead.

I'm referring first to Hostess Brands, makers of the iconic brands Twinkies, Ho Hos, Sno Balls and Wonder Bread and the 82-year old company's decision last month to shut down and lay off most of its 18,500 employees after talks fell apart with the union.

Then there is a company like Energizer, maker of various products but most well known for the unrelenting Energizer Bunny and its batteries.

Because of a drop in sales of single-use, disposable batteries, the company announced it's closing three plants. This will affect 10 percent of its global workforce.

What can you do to take care of yourself — just in case?

First, be aware of events that can affect a company and hence your job or career. Those events seem to fit into two categories:

• “Who knew?” events

An example of this is Topps Meat Co., founded in 1940. In 2007, the company's product was found to be contaminated with e. coli. On Oct. 5, 2007, Chief Executive Anthony D'Urso announced that the company was unable to withstand the financial burden of the previous month's recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef product.

Who would have thought the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers would be at the top of its game one day and closing its doors the next?

Other times, an event such as a merger, buyout or inability to reach agreement with a union can affect your company's way of doing business. Who knows — the new management may want to close your division or the entire company as with Hostess — and your job is gone.

• “Over time” events

The plants that made Energizer single-use batteries are a good example of how through the years, a product or industry are no longer viable or needed.

This can be happen from new technology that makes a product or service obsolete. Or it can be attributed to a change in trends.

Hostess experienced this as Americans embraced a more health-conscious attitude and the company went through difficult times 10 years earlier.

Could anyone have predicted the demise of the Energizer jobs?

The writing seemed to be on the wall.

Shipments of disposable batteries had been heading south since 2009.

People are using more and more devices that take rechargeable batteries.

The world is moving toward sustainable products that don't contain hazardous waste.

Put that all together, and things were not looking rosy for the single-use battery.

On the brighter side, your industry, profession or another company might be heading in a new, challenging direction that will call for enhanced skills and knowledge that could take you with it — if you're prepared.

Now's your chance to think ahead before you end up in those I-should-have-shoes.


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