How to Prepare for a Layoff
January 21 by Pamela Skillings | Work
Lately, it seems like every day brings yet another headline about impending corporate job cuts. Maybe you’ve even heard rumors that your own company is planning to downsize. Could your job be at risk?
Unfortunately, in today’s world, no job is ever 100% secure. Layoffs have become standard operating procedure for many companies. They hire when business looks good and cut jobs when results fall short of estimates. And it often doesn’t matter how good you are at your job or how hard you work.
Nobody relishes the idea of becoming suddenly unemployed, but a layoff doesn’t have to be the end of the world. The key to minimizing the stress and negative fallout is to prepare now for the possibility of a pink slip.
Trust me, I speak from experience. In more than twelve years of working for large corporations, I’ve lived through countless downsizings, reorganizations, and mergers. In most cases, I survived to work another day. However, I twice found myself among those packing up their desks and turning in their employee IDs. The first time, I was caught unprepared. The second time, I was ready, willing and able to embrace my layoff for what it was — an opportunity to finally make a career change that I had been dreaming about for years.
Follow my advice and you too can make sure layoffs won’t knock you for a loop:
- Stay in the Game – First and foremost, never stop looking for new career opportunities – even if your current job feels comfortable and secure. You never know when your dream job might open up. Keep your resume updated and make sure that the right recruiters have your phone number. You should always have a passive job search in progress. That way, you’ll always enjoy a steady stream of job leads and you’ll have a head start on landing your next position if you get laid off. This may sound like obvious advice, but few people truly take it seriously until it’s too late. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. When the layoff rumors start buzzing, goose your passive job search and get a little more active about exploring your options.
- Demonstrate Your Value – To increase your odds of hanging onto your current position, do whatever you can to show your manager the value that you provide. This is no time to be modest. Make sure you document your contributions and ensure that your boss understands how much harder her job would be without you.
- Don’t Take Any of It Personally – While it doesn’t hurt to demonstrate your value (see above), keep in mind that even the most valuable employees can be laid off. Layoff decisions are based on many factors. Sometimes, it’s about who was hired last. Sometimes, it’s about who makes the most money. Sometimes, there is no clear reason for who winds up on the chopping block. Don’t let rumors and speculation mess with your head. There’s only so much you can do to influence whether or not your name will show up on the layoff list. Don’t waste energy obsessing about what might happen. Channel your energy into figuring out your Plan B.
- Build Your Emergency Fund Cut back on discretionary purchases and put as much of your paycheck into your emergency savings fund as you can. Financial planners recommend that you should have enough in your emergency fund to cover your expenses for between three and six months. Hopefully, if you do get laid off, youll also have a severance package that will help you pay the bills. However, the more you can sock away, the more peace of mind youll have if the axe falls.
- Do Your Research Find out what kind of severance packages your company has offered in the past. Chances are that some of your colleagues have survived previous rounds of job cuts and can give you some general guidelines regarding what to expect. With a little luck, you might be pleasantly surprised at your companys generosity and realize theres no reason to panic.
- Do Your Housekeeping Often, when layoffs are announced, employees are rushed out the door and given little time to pack up and say goodbye. This is generally to prevent unpleasant scenes. However, if you think you might be facing a quick heave ho in the near future, you’d be smart to pack up your important possessions in advance. Make copies of work samples, performance reviews, and other key documents. Make sure you transfer all of your contacts to your personal computer. Start lugging home your extra pairs of shoes and family photos.
- Remember to Look on the Bright Side At worst, getting laid off is a temporary trial (and you will get through it, I promise). At best, your layoff may be the kick in the pants you need to find a more fulfilling job. I interviewed dozens of successful career changers for my forthcoming book and many of them spoke of being thankful for their layoffs (some of them volunteered or even begged to be let go). Their severance packages gave them the time and opportunity to pursue the careers of their dreams. If youve been unhappy in your current career path, this layoff may be your chance to explore your options.