Here’s a snippet of a typical conversation I have with professionals whose companies are experiencing a merger or acquisition:

Pro: “My company was just acquired. I’m not sure what this means for me.”

ME: “OK, so knowing that, what do you think your strategy should be?”

Pro: “I should sit tight and see what happens.”

ME: “How long should you do that for?”

Pro: “Until I’m either told I’m OK or laid off.”

ME: “What are some things you could do in the meantime?”

Pro: “Well, I don’t want to do anything rash.”

Maybe you can relate with this interaction. After all, corporate acquisitions and mergers are one of the most uncertain times a professional can face as everything hangs in the balance and staff await their fate.

And although it’s true that you can’t control or even accurately predict what will happen, you don’t have to be powerless.

Let me say that again:

You don’t have to be powerless.

Understandably, however, it’s how we feel. We feel like we have no other choice but than to sit tight and see what happens.

But here are two things to keep in mind:

1. Demotivation is a trap. Whenever something significant happens to us in our careers, especially something we didn’t or couldn’t see coming, demotivation is a natural reaction. Maybe you don’t recognize it at first, but usually it comes in the form of false positivity (“I’m sure it will all be fine. Just wait and see.”) followed by a strong aversion to even thinking about the possibility of a job search followed by clinging to every word leadership says (“They said it’s looking good for our department.”) followed by a worry that doing anything before you know something for certain would appear rash, and you don’t want to appear rash!

It’s not that there isn’t some truth to what we are telling ourselves; in fact, it could all be true. It could all work out fine, and leadership could really mean what they are saying. The problem is that we are leaving ourselves vulnerable. While corporate is doing what corporate does, we aren’t doing anything to at least try and protect ourselves…just in case.

2. Haste does NOT always make waste. Harnessing the power of negative preparation (preparing for the worst), putting feelers out there, and developing strategic contacts is not “rash”; it’s wise, and it’s especially wise to do while you are doing all this “waiting.” It will help you build leverage even if your current company decides to keep you because you will already have things in motion, opportunity pipelines in the works, that you might be able to assess against the offer your “new” current company is extending (especially now that you’ve seen what the market has to offer).

We often forget that just because we didn’t go through an official job search during the merger or acquisition doesn’t mean that we aren’t essentially being hired all over again by the “new” entity. Many times professionals are caught off guard by the fact that they might have to interview to keep their job or justify the value they bring to the organization. These things require preparation as well!

So you don’t have to jump ship necessarily, but you do have to recognize that the ship might be sinking and develop a strategy for survival. If you don’t, then you really are powerless.