Nobody wants to end up on the layoff list, but unfortunately workforce reductions are all too common in this economy. Whether your company has announced layoffs or rumors are swirling of impending ones, there are ways you can reduce your chances of landing on the list or at least cushion the blow if you do get let go.
One of the most common reactions to the prospects of layoffs is to panic but doing that can be counter-productive. Often layoff numbers aren’t set in stone, which means the timing and size can change at a moment’s notice. Instead of panicking or gossiping about what may or may not happen use the time to shine at your job and at the same time come up with a plan B.
“When a company announces an upcoming reduction with no timetable attached, it is likely that the names have not been put on paper,” says Julie Bauke, career strategist, president of The Bauke Group, and author of Stop Peeing on our Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw Up your Job Search. “If you are one of those people who get caught up in or fuel the rumor mill, it will not go unnoticed.”
Since employers typically use layoffs to let go of the least productive in their company, career experts say when layoffs are pending, you need to show you are valuable to the organization. According to Susan Ruhl, a managing partner at OI Partners – Innovative Career Consulting in Denver, there are simple things you can do including going above and beyond, showing you are a team player, being on time and dependable and doing things that will get you recognition and set you apart from your colleagues.
“Go well above the minimum requirements and seek to make yourself indispensable,” says Ruhl. “Demonstrate how motivated you are and gain a reputation as someone who consistently delivers more than expected.”
You’ll also need to be your own advocate, which means letting your boss and any other superiors in the company know just how valuable you are. If you hear rumors about layoffs, Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level, says to ask your boss about it and use that conversation as an opportunity to make it known why you are valuable to the company. You want to plant a seed so come layoff time your boss has your contributions in the back of his or her mind.
Garfinkle says to also try to get on the hottest project in the company, the one that everyone is realizing is the future of the business. “Your employability will be greater because you are working on something that’s seen within the company as important,” says Garfinkle.
During the time the layoffs are announced and they happen, it’s important to accept that you may be one of those on the chopping block and plan accordingly. It’s a good idea to gather all your key information including a list of contacts and anything that documents your accomplishments within the organization, says Bauke. “Two-thirds or more of people get their next job through a person they know or one they meet in the job search; you will be slowed down significantly if you have to recreate your contact list,” she says.
You’ll also have to take an honest assessment of your skills, interests and experience, says Bauke. You want to know realistically how marketable you are, what the demand is for your skills and experience and if you have kept up to date in your field. She says to start connecting with professional associations, read trade journals and network with people who do what you do.
It’s understandable that you will want to find a job right away, but hold off until you can think clearly and can make an honest assessment of what you want out of your career. “Many people are too upset and emotional during this time to quickly launch a search,” says Ruhl. “Give yourself some time to re-assess your career and determine what you want to do next.”