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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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