Preparing for a Layoff: 6 Tips for Employees
In today’s economy, there is no position that is 100 percent secure and a layoff is not easy on anyone. It’s frightening and draining on all involved—whether you are the person being laid off, the HR professional handling the details, a member of management performing the notifications, or a layoff survivor who now has the burden of taking on the work and the guilt of having a job although your friends and colleagues do not.
Although they may feel personal, layoffs are business decisions. In most cases, redundant positions or roles that no longer help to meet larger corporate goals are eliminated, not individuals. Even in a low unemployment economy, layoffs are a reality. If you feel your organization could be headed for a workforce restructuring event, here are six ways to set yourself up for success in the future:
#1 Be consistently visible
Reduce the possibility that your position can be justified as unnecessary. Demonstrate your value by speaking up when you can, documenting your accomplishments and ensuring the organization knows how important you are. Organizations hire and retain based on how effectively individual employees can address challenges and solve pain points. Demonstrate your value by articulating your contributions. Use compelling, concise statements (your Professional Value Proposition--PVP) to convey your value, unique abilities and professional brand. Developing a PVP is never a waste of time. Even if you are not able to remain in your current position, you can use this personal branding when networking, on your professional branding documents, and to answer "tell me about yourself" questions while interviewing.
While easier said than done, stay committed even if there are rumors of a layoff. You can take steps to prepare for worst case scenarios but can also continue to work with a positive attitude. In times of stress, people can let their emotions get the best of them which can contribute to a layoff decision and hurt your chances for good references. It’s important to perform at your best even when you’re not positive about your future.
Being visible will not only help before a layoff, it will give you a jump start on networking to find a new job if you are laid off. Gain visibility inside your organization to ensure that you are regarded as a thought leader and have established a professional presence that can assist you in a job search.
#2 Prepare financially
Build your emergency fund and understand your household incoming and outgoing cash flow. Financial experts often recommend that everyone should have an emergency fund to cover your expenses for between three and six months. If you don’t have one yet, start building that financial safety net now.
Know your budget necessities like rent and food, savings and debt but also understand non-essentials like eating out, travel and hobbies. Once you figure out the base budget, you can know how much you can spend weekly and monthly if you ever find yourself in a job transition.
A very important financial step in preparing for a layoff is to take advantage of your benefits before they run out.
- Know your company severance policy. Read the fine print (i.e. non-compete agreements) and find out if you can negotiate severance packages and what’s included in the total package. Some companies may even provide outplacement services, redeployment options, talent mobility processes, or additional projects or consulting work. Also look into any pensions or 401(k) benefits. If you’re not sure, ask about the benefits that are important to you.
- Research your unused time.Find out what vacation and sick time is still available and ask around or research to find out the protocol on using it. Sometimes you can use it all as vacation time and other times it can be cashed out as a payment among other options. This is a critical piece of your work agreement that you should understand even before a layoff notification comes around.
- Familiarize yourself with unemployment benefits. Unemployment varies per state and you can identify if you qualify for benefits and how much you could receive.
- Check your health insurance needs. Get those appointments set up before time runs out. Research COBRA and the Affordable Healthcare Act to get an idea of costs and timelines. Think about a Health Savings Account (HSA) and any other health benefits you can take advantage of.
Making a commitment to follow a budget and understanding your financial situation is not just a good idea for layoff preparation but for times of economic recession and situations related to health that can cause a decline in or inhibit your ability to work.
#3 Control your workspace computer and hardcopy files
Sometimes layoffs happen at a moment’s notice and you don’t have time to fully prepare or gather your thoughts quickly enough to figure out what else you need to take with you. Take control of the situation by:
- Cleaning up your e-mail account
- Obtaining copies of performance reviews, accolades and work samples
- Keeping a record of your contacts (for networking purposes)
- Transferring any personal documents or files to yourself
#4 Network strategically
Networking is a crucial component to a job search and career development. You should be networking consistently – but if you’re not, start before layoff rumors begin as this process can help you develop and enhance your brand and identify future opportunities.
First step is to examine your network. Who will be most helpful out of your existing contacts?
- People you already know
- People who work in your focus industry or target company
- People who may be in a position to refer you to someone else
- People who might otherwise help you
Besides internal networking, there are plenty of options to network externally as well including:
- Recruiting firms
- Professional associations
- Alumni events
- One-stop center
- LinkedIn outreach
- Gym or sports activities
- Hobby clubs
- Online forums
- Neighborhood groups
- Speeches & seminars
- Wine & beer festivals
- Civic organizations
- Philanthropic events
- TEDx Talks
- Golf tournaments
- Job & career fairs
- Trade shows
- Rotary Club
- Arts (concerts, improv)
- Coffee shop or hairdresser
- Religious events
- Chamber of Commerce
Remember that most new opportunities come as a result of who you know rather than hoping you make it to the next step based on qualifications. You may hear about a job through a contact, at a certain event, or you can use someone as a reference to get your foot in the door even before the job is posted online.
Whenever possible, use a networking approach to start new relationships as well as nurture old ones.
#5 Expand your skill set
Pursuing education or certifications and improving skills is a great way to show your ongoing commitment to enhancing your capabilities and keeping up on the trends in this ever-changing economy.
Some companies even offer additional training and if so – that is something to take advantage of as soon as you are eligible. Investing in your educational growth closes the skills and knowledge gap, fulfills needs missing from your career “tool belt”, and shows you are committed to professional development.
Ongoing education comes in many forms including:
- User-generated content (YouTube)
- Online, instructor-led, semester-long courses
- Classroom-based, instructor-led, semester-long courses
- Day-long seminar or professional development conferences
- Books and articles
- Online research (articles, blogs)
- Professional development programs (online or in person)
- Certificate programs (online or in person)
- Self-directed courses
- Degree programs (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate degree)
- Executive education
Preparing for continuing education classes, new certifications and on-the-job training may come in handy when being compared to a candidate with similar experience. In addition, additional skills can lead to finding a higher paying job.
#6 Update your marketing documents and online profiles
Polishing your job search materials and branding documents, (resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile) is key to helping you stand out from your competition and getting you through Applicant Tracking Software (ATS).
Most people do not keep their resumes current, so it’s a headache trying to remember all the achievements and tasks performed in order to craft an optimal document.
If you are lucky enough to have outplacement services, a resume and cover letter update may be part of the package. If you do not have outplacement, then you can update your resume yourself using research and online templates or invest in a Certified Resume Writer to assist.
Either way, you will still need to articulate your worth. Jotting down your achievements as they happen and keeping your resume current simplifies the process and cuts down on the time you spend trying to remember your experiences.
Because of today's highly competitive job market, your branding documents need to set you apart from both your internal and external competition, so keeping them updated even while happily employed puts you ahead of the game and in a good position should any opportunities or problems arise.
Add in updates to your cover letter and LinkedIn profiles and familiarize yourself with the current user experiences on social media platforms—that way you are up-to-date and ready for anything that comes your way!
Tips and tricks
In addition to the tips listed, it’s never a bad idea to keep track of all activities including networking meetings, follow-ups, interviews, job applications and other interactions. Good preparation includes maintaining a regular schedule of activities for each day of the week and using a calendar system to stay organized.
Also, remember to do something fun for yourself each week, eat right and exercise to keep a healthy balance no matter what is happening at work.
Lastly, celebrate your successes – even the small ones. In between the big goals are the small ones that are important and impactful stepping stones that can lead you to success, whether you are proactively preparing for a layoff or have been laid off and are starting a job search.