Be Proactive, and You Might Be Able to Put Yourself in a Better Position
With our economy in a recession, hiring freezes are becoming common, and at worst, layoffs will become expected. Even in a healthy economy, not all businesses are winners. Sometimes, even at successful companies that make money, changing priorities can result in adjustments to the workforce.
Getting laid off isn’t the end of the world. It could be the best thing that ever happened to your career. A looming layoff allows you to reflect on your current situation and consider new opportunities. Maybe it’s time for a new field or an advanced degree. Perhaps you can finally take the time to write that novel or open your small business. Whatever you decide to do, remember that it’s possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
With layoffs and dismissal rates in the U.S. currently running at about 1.4 million per month, the issue of being let go is a live one for many of us. While there is plenty of advice for people between jobs, there is not so much advice for people locked in that awkward professional twilight zone: when you believe you may be let go soon but haven’t been cut loose just yet.
Don’t just sit there feeling helpless and waiting for career Armageddon. That’s far too fatalistic an approach, and it may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your belief that you may be downsized can affect your performance, and management may decide to let you go because of your lowered performance even if they weren’t going to before your performance suffered.
You are not powerless, and there are many things you may be able to do to improve your situation and possibly even save your job. Doing nothing and waiting to be let go is the fastest way to find yourself jobless.
No matter what the reason, layoffs remain a reality that can impact careers. A layoff isn’t the same as getting fired. The difference is that someone gets laid off when their company no longer needs the work they once provided. It can be a cold process — especially at larger companies — but if you think you might fall victim to a layoff, there are steps you can take.
1. First, Take a Deep Breath
Don’t panic unless you have solid evidence that your position may be in trouble. If a boss gave you a heads up or layoffs have been announced in your department without names attached, you might have a valid reason to start preparing. Still, just because there will be layoffs does not mean you will be laid off.
Stay calm; but, be proactive and rational. For example, if you have seen past layoffs where the highest-paid people are the targets — and you’re a highly paid person — then it’s reasonable to prepare for what might happen.
Be rational and consider every move you make before you make it.
2. Update Your Resume
Preparing a resume the day you need it can lead to disaster. Creating your resume now will allow you to spend time highlighting your work experience and making sure your resume is error-free. If you need help writing a resume that works, consider having our professional writers support you.
3. Start Networking
Most people don’t network seriously until they know they need a job, but you should begin reaching out before your back is against the wall. You can start by updating your profile on social networking sites and making a list of friends, old co-workers, colleagues, and other people you can connect with.
If you know a layoff is coming, make sure your professional and personal contacts know you’ll soon be available. You don’t have to be particularly subtle. You’re looking for a job because you expect your current employer to let you go quickly. Spread the word, and you might be able to get some interviews or interest before the ax falls.
4. Get Recommendations
Job seekers need career references, so start thinking about whom you can ask for a recommendation. There’s a good chance you won’t see your co-workers and supervisors daily after you’re laid off. It is a good idea to have their contact information on hand – or a recommendation letter if you can swing it.
5. Consider a Transfer
A friend works for a huge company. He saw that layoffs were likely in the department he worked in, so he began looking at internal transfers. Ultimately, he moved to a department doing a job he did not particularly like. It wasn’t ideal, but he avoided being laid off, and eventually, he moved again into a position he wanted more.
If you don’t see a future for yourself in your current role — either because you no longer find it inspiring or because you don’t feel competent — why not be proactive and make an internal move to an area where you can feel capable and motivated again?
Sit down with your boss with this goal in mind and see if your role can be modified to better suit your goals or whether a transfer into a new, more suitable position can take place.
6. Look to Leave
It’s easier to get a job when you have a job. Research shows that employers are four times more likely to respond to your job application if you are already employed. That means it’s essential to start your search as soon as possible. Look for a job before layoffs start, and your search may well be shorter.
7. Make a Deal
If you were ready to leave your job, look at a potential layoff as an opportunity. Instead of waiting for your employer to act, approach the company.
Schedule a meeting with human resources or your boss and tell them that you believe layoffs are coming. Offer to leave, but ask for generous severance, extended health benefits, a written recommendation, and other perks. Essentially, you are creating your voluntary buyout package and helping your boss or human resources make one less tough choice. You may not get the perks you ask for, but if you are going to be laid off anyway, it does not hurt to try.
8. Don’t Just Wait
The worst thing you can do in the face of an imminent layoff is nothing. At the very least, ensure you get your resume in order, prepare an introductory cover letter, and line up your references.
Keep your attitude as positive as possible and remember that getting laid off is not your fault. You didn’t get fired for something you did wrong. You fell victim to your company’s mistakes or market conditions that were not your fault.
Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Take the steps you need to make sure you land on your feet and turn a negative into a positive.
9. Prepare Thank You Notes
If you are separated, sending out thank you notes to your former boss and co-workers is a classy move. It’s also a good way to make sure people remember you fondly and (if you’re lucky) send job leads your way. Since it can be challenging to write thank you notes when you’re moping over a recent job loss, it’s wise to prepare them now.
10. Seize the Day, as There May Be an Opportunity at Hand
Being laid off is not the end of the road — even though it may feel like it is. It can be the beginning of something new and exciting. J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Marc Cuban, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Redford, and many others were all terminated before achieving extraordinary things.
If you believe you will be caught up in a reduction in force, you can make a preemptive job search, but you can also think big and scope out a dream. Have you always wanted to go it alone, become a pastry chef, or start your own business? Why not channel your feelings of injustice or anger into realizing a dream?
Your employer might even be able to help you out here — if you play your cards right — by letting you work part-time for a little while to help you bridge the gap between leaving your job and starting your new venture. Your employer might even be prepared to offer you contract work or become your first client (depending on your business). Leverage your current employer’s contacts, knowledge, and finances as best you can.
Written By: Michael Schumacher, Head of Service & Growth Initiatives / Senior Career Strategist
Michael Schumacher is one of our accomplished Senior Career Strategists who brings over two decades of experience in the career transition industry to ECP.
He is known for motivating and coaching clients while never losing sight of their individualism, personal situations, or specific objectives.
In addition to coaching clients toward success during their job search, Michael is also a talented writer who is knowledgeable about today’s industry trends.