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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 August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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