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Dealing with Downsizing: How to Prepare

Dealing with Downsizing: How to Prepare

    It’s awful to hang around an office where everyone knows that job cuts are coming. There’s a sense that everyone’s just waiting for the shoe to drop. No one in the office wants to lose their job and go through the horrors of the job hunt. At the same time, though, no one wants to be the guy left at the end — the guy now doing the work of the ten other people that used to make up his team.

    There’s a benefit to seeing the writing on the wall, though. You know downsizing is coming, and that will let you plan your next move. If you can opt out of the fear that seems to engulf offices on the edge, why wouldn’t you want to?

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    Decide What You Want

    Your first step has to be deciding what you want. Maybe you really enjoy your job — maybe you’re willing to do the work of as many people as necessary to keep your comfortable job. If that’s the case, it’s worth going to your supervisor and informing them of that fact. In my experience, just informing them is enough. Don’t ask for a way to prove it; don’t try to subtly suggest it. If you’re on the ‘Maybe’ list, though, you’ve probably just tipped yourself on to the ‘Keep’ list.

    But the opposite is equally likely. You could be just punching that time clock. Are you ready to move on? If so, don’t wait for the axe to fall. Start planning your escape: hunt for a new job or plan another first step. As soon as you’re ready to move on, approach your boss about negotiating your last few days. If job cuts have been announced, you can probably negotiate for the full severance package they were going to offer. If the plans to downsize are still very quiet, it’s harder to request a severance package but not impossible. Don’t run out the clock, though. You might be surprised to learn that you’re on the ‘Keep’ list when you already had your bags packed. Worse, you might prevent one of your peers who really wanted to stay from doing so.

    Prepare for the Job Hunt

    Even if you’re hoping to stay on, you need a Plan B. When in doubt, looking for a new job is a pretty solid alternative. I’d recommend it even to the folks who are fairly sure of their job security. Nothing, after all, is certain.

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    Everyone knows the standard routine of the job hunt, of course:

    1. Polish your resume until it gleams.
    2. Send out copies.
    3. Network.
    4. Interview with prospective employers.
    5. Land the job.

    There are a few extra steps worth considering, however. Rather than spending all your time perfecting your resume, why not put together a portfolio? A few excellent samples of your work can go much further in convincing a prospective employer than any college degree. And while portfolios used to be solely the domain of artists, they can provide a boost to a host of other careers as well. Are you a software developer? You can use applications you’ve worked on in your portfolio. Are you a house painter? Take a few pictures of houses you’ve worked on and submit them with your application.

    You can also step outside the box on networking. Rather than asking friends of friends if their companies are hiring, it might be worth it to meet people entirely outside your current network. Try going outside your circle of friends: go to Meetups, join clubs and get out of your normal routine. It will up your odds of finding a new position significantly. Think of it this way: other members of your network are sure to work for the same company that’s planning on laying you off. Your connections may have several people asking them about jobs. Best to step out of that situation, if you can.

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    Or Plan Something Else

    Another job in the same career path may not be your ideal next step. There are other jobs besides putting yourself on the job market: you can start your own business, go back to school or change careers. The transition may not be as easy as a job hunt can be, but it can be very gratifying. Knowing that you have a few more days of pay and perhaps even a severance package to help you make the change, though, can make it a little less scary. You have a buffer to write a business plan or submit grad school applications, so why not take advantage of it?

    Don’t forget that there’s no rule saying that you can’t be writing a business plan while you send out resumes, either. You have an opportunity to steer your career right now, and it’s always easier to do now rather than later.

    Either Way…

    No matter what you are planning for your next big step, there are a few smaller steps to take care of in the mean time that can make the whole process easier.

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    • Arrange for insurance coverage. COBRA may be your best bet if you’ll be changing jobs.
    • Look for some work to fill in the gaps, such as freelance work or temp jobs. Most of us just can’t suddenly be without an income.
    • Warn the significant people in your life that change is coming. Your parents, significant other, etc. are likely to worry if you announce that you no longer have a job. You don’t necessarily have an obligation to stop them from worrying, but telling them that you have a plan can do just that.

    Any other recommendations for handling downsizing? Please add them in the comments!

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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