So the holiday party was canceled and no one’s getting a bonus, performance reviews came and went with no adjustment of compensation, and your company’s main competitor recently laid off half its staff. You’ve noticed the big bosses going into closed-door meetings and the human resources director seems awfully busy.
Maybe you’re paranoid, and there’s nothing to worry about… or maybe not. With thousands of workers laid off in a broad range of industries and an economy firmly in recession, it seems that no one is safe from the threat of being downsized, terminated, laid off, or let go. If you’ve been hearing rumors at the office about imminent layoffs, it might be wise to act as though they may be true. Here’s what you need to do.
If you work harder now than you ever have before, your work ethic may rub off on your coworkers and together, you could pull your company out of its pit. (Well, you never know.)
Seriously, your supervisor could notice the valiant effort you’re putting forth in the face of uncertainty and decide to reward you by not eliminating your job. And even in a worst-case scenario, your coworkers will remember what a friendly, helpful, hard worker you are and recommend you to their new bosses at their new companies when they get new jobs after you all get laid off. It can’t hurt-and suddenly slacking off on the company’s dime is sure to put you at the top of the to-be-terminated list.
Update Your Resume and Interview Skills
You’ll have a head start on the job search if your resume is ready to go as soon as you need it. Update it now with information about your current job and any new skills you’ve recently acquired.
Ask a friend, discreet coworker, or professional resume writer to have a look at it. Print out several hard copies on nice paper so you’ll have them on hand.
While you’re at it, start refreshing your interview skills. If it’s been a long time since you last undertook a job search, you might not be aware of the most current interview styles. Even if you are, practice and preparation will ensure that you’re confident and capable when interview time comes.
Put Out Feelers
Discretion is key, but it’s not a bad idea to start looking for a new job now. Let close friends and family members know that you might be in the market soon and ask them if there are any openings at their companies. Post your resume on job boards that allow you to prevent your current company from accessing it, and keep an eye on the classified ads and Internet job listings. Pay attention to what the market is like now so you won’t be surprised if you do lose your job. And if you see a dream opportunity, don’t be afraid to jump on it. If you don’t, and you’re laid off, you’ll regret it.
Expand Your Skills
While you still have extra money, consider enrolling in a course or two to update your marketable skills. Not only will this enhance your resume, but it will keep you busy and help you make contacts if you do get laid off, as well as opening your eyes to career opportunities you might not have thought of otherwise.
Start Saving Money
Conventional wisdom holds that you should have enough savings to support yourself for three months. If you haven’t been saving already, this might not be possible, but do the best you can. The more money you have on hand, the less traumatic the layoff will be. You’ll also be able to take your time finding a new job, instead of having to desperately accept the first offer that comes your way. If you want to, you’ll be able to take some time off to study or travel.
You’ll also want to start investigating what a layoff will mean to your pension plan or 401(k). Look into unemployment insurance, too. If you carry a balance on your credit cards, investigate whether the lender offers an insurance program that would allow you to suspend payment in the case of unemployment. If you’ve been putting off getting a wisdom tooth pulled or visiting the eye doctor, do it now while you’re on your company’s health plan.
Clean Out Your Computer
When the big layoff actually comes, you’ll be lucky if you have more than half an hour to remove personal files from your computer before it’s turned off. To avoid the stress of that situation, start copying personal documents onto floppies, deleting them from your work computer’s hard drive, and taking them home. Do the same with any hard-copy documents of a personal or private nature.
Don’t Freak Out
The coming weeks or months will undoubtedly be scary. If you’re well prepared, you’ll feel much less pressure and you’ll be able to see the situation much more objectively. Keep your wits about you and try not to let work-related stress get to you too much. Remind yourself that you’re doing what you can; other than that, it’s out of your hands. Don’t feel disloyal for taking these steps-you have to take care of yourself. Stay calm and look on this as an opportunity and a learning experience. Find someone trustworthy you can confide your fears in; if you’re really panicky, think about seeing a counselor. And remember that this happens to the best of ’em.