You’ve been in a new role for a few years and things are going great. The finance department is well organised, the team is nice, your boss is supportive, and the salary is pretty good. Most importantly, you have a clear career path ahead of you that you discussed with the company before joining and you can see yourself staying here and growing for many years. There’s no perfect job, but maybe this is as good as it gets.
And then one day you wake up to the news that your company has just been sold. The Country Representative everyone likes is being replaced. The move to the shiny new office downtown is on hold. The additional headcount for your team is cancelled and now it will be harder to take time off. And most importantly, all assurances and agreements about your career path are out the window.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens from time to time and I know many finance professionals with foreign SMEs in Japan who have been in a similar situation. Changes of ownership seldom result in positive changes for the workers at the acquired company, but with the right approach you can use the situation to gain valuable experience and use the time to plan a new career path.
Why is a change in ownership usually bad news?
While there are some exceptions, ownership changes are generally bad for workers for a few reasons. Different types of ownership change come with different downsides, but some of the worst effects can include redundancies, pay cuts, relocations, increased workloads, and derailed career plans. The uncertainty surrounding ownership changes can also lead to significant stress, which makes everything else even more difficult.
What are the opportunities?
Although ownership changes are seldom good news for most employees, for some professionals they can be a blessing in disguise. Adaptable employees might quickly transition to the new way of doing things, become valuable bridges between the new and old organisations, and start to take on more leadership responsibilities in the new company. Even for people whose careers have been disrupted by the change, there are opportunities to get useful experience in change management and work on systems integrations with the new company. These kinds of experience will help your CV stand out when interviewing for roles at companies going through their own organisational changes.
What should you do?
After an ownership change, it usually takes some time before workers are told how their jobs will be affected. This can be a stressful time, and one good way to stay calm is to take ownership of your situation and find out what other jobs are out there. Sometimes people hesitate to look for a new job if they recently joined their current company, but a change in ownership is a natural jumping off point for many professionals and a good recruiter will be able to carefully explain your situation to any potential new employers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to start applying for new jobs right away, but it is important to know what the job market is like and what your other options are if your current role is about to go through some unwelcome adjustments. That way, you will be able to learn about new opportunities while you see how your role in the new organisation is changed, and if you don’t like the changes you can make a move in confidence after all your research.