Five Things to Do This Week if you Suspect a Layoff is in your Future

The signs are there.

The company announced dramatically reduced earnings. There are rumors of “restructuring”. You have a boss who is too busy to meet with you.

While an impending layoff can make us feel helpless, there are things you can do to give yourself options if the “pink slip” is inevitable.

Here are five things to do this week if you suspect a layoff might be in your future:

1. Assess your career capital.

What skills and experience do you have that people pay for? Most of us can list four easily. 1) The role we’ve been filling. 2) Our education. 3) Software we know how to use. 4) Some internal quality like “self-motivated” or “great with people.”

Then we hit a hard stop. What else are we good at?

There are some great assessments, like Gallup Strengths Finder or the more in depth (and more costly) Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test, or the free Career Enjoyment assessment, but what if another method is simply to sit down and figure out how what we do that creates value?

Here are four targeted questions to help you name the skills you have that bring value:
  1. What do you do that directly contributes to money being earned by your firm? 
  2. What have you done that improved efficiency? (Helped your firm bring in more money with less resources) 
  3. What do you do that helps other people bring in money to the firm? (This might be training, support, administrative, research…anything that makes others more valuable.) 
  4. What do you do that would be difficult for a company to replace? (This will help you identify things that are niche and hard to get.) 
Assessing your career capital will give you the content you need so that you can update your resume—and it is better to do this now. It gets harder to think about once you are actually laid off. 

2. Document your network—then reach out.

While stealing your company’s client list is unethical—and potentially illegal—documenting your own business relationships is a different story.

One of the best ways to maintain your own professional network is through LinkedIn. Hopefully, your connections are curated (ie. you didn’t just “friend” everyone.) If not, now is your time to focus on the people you’ve actually met that could help you professionally.

Go broad with who you reach out to. All you need is a quick check in. Something like, “We haven’t spoken in a while. How are you?” Then connect again with those who respond and ask for advice. Depending on their role they may have industry intelligence on who is hiring—or if they know you more personally—they may be able to write a recommendation or serve as a reference.

It is easier to make these kinds of inquiries while you are still employed, so jump on it. 

3. Check your wardrobe.

People are swayed by how they perceive you, so pay attention to your professional image—including the way you dress. Right or wrong, we all form impressions based on what someone is wearing.

While it may not affect whether your name shows up on the list of cuts, it can subtly influence how people recommend you after the cuts are made. It can also influence what leads are given to you by people outside of your company. Professional clothing won’t make you a better employee, but it can make you look like one.

It would be unwise to run up your credit cards in the wake of an impending layoff, so simply focus on the best of whatever is already in your closet, or hit a thrift store to upgrade some basics.

4. Write a single paragraph that describes who you want to be in two years.

We all get locked into ways of seeing ourselves based on our current surroundings. Take the time to write about yourself as if you are two years in the future. It needs to be true, but aspirational. For example, if you are marketing manager who wishes you did more graphic design, your paragraph might begin with: “I’m a skilled graphic designer who enjoys working in a fast paced agency environment.”

This can be a powerful exercise to help you identify what you want, and it will change your vocabulary when you talk with people about the type of work you want to pursue next.  You might even use it as your summary paragraph on your LinkedIn profile.

5. Leverage your social media.

Social media can be a powerful tool in getting you to your next position. How many times have you met someone who got a job through a friend of a friend? You can make those connections work for you with a few simple steps.

1. Communicate with your profile picture. Use a profile picture that communicates how you want people to see you professionally. (This doesn’t mean that every picture of you needs to be in a suit, but it might mean you lose the one of you in a swimsuit toasting with a beer bottle.)

2. Search your name.
Open an incognito browser (Ctrl+Shift+N) and search for your name. What comes up? Chances are that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn come up on the first page. Click the links. If you didn’t know yourself, what would you think based on what you see? Do you need to post better content? 

If something comes up that you would rather not have associated with you, drown it out. Purchase your name as a domain (.me is a popular option), then make it your online resume.  It will usually come up on the front page, unless you share a name with a pop star--in which case you probably don't have to worry about something unflattering coming up about you at all.

3. The day you are laid off, let people know. In the event you are actually one of the people cut, make an upbeat post about it. (Desperation drives people away. Optimism makes them think they can recommend you and you won’t bleed on their contacts. Weird, I know.) Everyone knows that layoffs are hard. You might be surprised at who steps up to help you.
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