by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Is your employer hurting? Is your industry dying? Are the rumors of widespread layoffs or plant closures getting increasingly more prevalent? Have the layoffs and pink slips already started?
This article is all about providing tips for workers who are about to lose their jobs — and what you can do to prepare for it and move on after it. You’ll find expert action tips and steps you can begin taking now to lay a foundation for a better and more secure future.
Before The Layoff
1. Ramp Up Your Networking. Now is not the time to be in denial with your network contacts. Just the opposite. It’s time to talk with your contacts about new job leads or possible career changes while also working hard at building new contacts. You may feel a bit awkward or embarrassed to talk about possibly being laid off, but your urgency can increase the chances of finding a new job before your employer has the chance to let you go.
2. Meet With the Boss. Typically during layoffs, workers avoid the boss as much as possible but now is a great time to schedule a meeting. You can discuss a number of options, from asking for a strong recommendation to requesting that you’ll take on extra tasks and work responsibilities if it means staying on longer. You can even suggest taking a cut in hours, job-sharing, telecommuting, or other options if the boss thinks that one of them will help stave off more layoffs (or at least delay your own).
3. Visit the Human Resources Office. You’ll want to request a current accounting of all your benefits, including vacation days, comp-time hours, pension funds, and monies remaining in your flex spending plan. If you have not kept copies of them, you should also ask for copies of key personnel information, such as performance appraisals. (Remember to use the remainder of your benefits now before it’s too late.)
4. Secure Co-Worker Information/References. Ask the co-workers who know you best for their personal contact information — and whether they would be willing to serve as a reference for you in your next job search. It’s best to do it now before the layoffs come and people scatter.
5. Polish Job-Search Materials. Now is the time to begin seriously working on updating your resume. If you have not had to deal with your resume for a few years, take time to relearn the key elements of resumes in today’s job market — or better, make the investment in hiring a professional to create or enhance your resume. [Editor’s Note: If you choose to use a professional resume service, consider our Job-Winning Resume Writing Services.]
6. Safeguard Personal and Professional Information. Make copies of all important information and documents — ideally in hard copy as well as electronically. You’ll want samples of your work to show future employers. You should also keep a detailed list of all vendors, suppliers, clients, and the like you’ve worked with so that you can contact them for networking or in connection with your next job.
After the Layoff
1. File for Unemployment Compensation. Don’t wait for one minute. There is no shame in applying for jobless benefits when your company has let you down. Most states now allow you to apply for unemployment online. Find your state using our List of State Unemployment Websites. You’ll need this key information to complete the application: contact information, social security number, driver’s license number, name of most recent employer, dates of last employment (start and end dates), and salary/wage figures.
2. Find, Follow All Job Leads. When you’re unemployed, your entire day should be spent job-hunting. Wake up early and make some networking calls, visits, or emails. Track down job leads. Apply to company-posted job openings. Follow-up previously submitted applications. Prepare for job interviews. Schedule informational interviews. Use every tool available to you to find and apply to jobs — and don’t stop your job-hunting day until you’ve achieved your daily goals.
3. Consider a Survival Job. Even after you’ve cut back on your spending, typical unemployment benefits are not going to cover all your bills, and while it’s a good cushion initially, you may need to consider taking a full-time job that is not in your current career field — so you can pay the bills, keep the house and car, and put food on the table.
4. Contemplate a Career Change. If you were unhappy in your last job or your job is simply becoming obsolete, it’s time to lay a foundation for making a change. Find some time to brainstorm and research new careers that inspire you and have a future. Changing careers is often harder than finding a new job, but being laid off may be a blessing in disguise if it moves you into a better career.
5. Obtain Training, Further Education, Gain Experience. Whether you are changing careers or simply trying to find a new job in your current field, it is always beneficial to showcase that you are current on the tools and technologies required. Some state and federal programs offer retraining grants and resources while local community colleges may provide low-cost tuition options. Finally, consider volunteering while you are obtaining the training — it will cover gaps on your resume and provide you with many other benefits.
6. Tap Other Money and Benefits Sources. If you’re at risk of becoming homeless or otherwise struggling, consider other sources of money — after you have cut your spending to the absolute bare necessities. Tap into other government and community-based programs for the unemployed and low-income workers. Empty your savings and cash in your savings bonds. Sell stuff (garage sales, e-bay, craigslist, etc.). Borrow from your pension or life insurance, but try not to cash in those policies until it’s a last resort.
Final Thoughts on Preparing for Layoffs
A layoff is an emotional and financial hit that can take months to overcome, but if you take the recommended actions prior to the layoff and immediately following the layoff, you will be better prepared — and ideally better able to move quickly from one job to the next (or to a new career).
Besides the advice in this article, find the tools you need to succeed by browsing or searching for the resources to find your next job. QuintCareers provides expert advice on all aspects of job-hunting, including networking, cover letters, resumes, job interviewing, and salary negotiation — including many samples and hands-on suggestions for improving your marketability and chances for obtaining a new job.
See also our no-cost tutorial, Rebounding After a Layoff: How to Successfully Re-Enter the Job Market After Being Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off.
See also these Job-Hunting During a Recession Articles for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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