With more than 36.4 million who have filed jobless claims as of May 9, as a result of the coronavirus, even those still employed might be a bit concerned about their job security. How do you know if your job might be in danger?
Tim Sackett, president at HRU Technical Resources, says that there are some signs you’re about to be laid off:
- Unusual behavior. There are closed-door meetings when there usually aren’t. You’re being asked for information that you usually don’t supply, such as updated standard operating procedures, and the latest performance metrics for your group or position.
- Weird vibes. There is "radio silence" from leaders who are normally talkative. Quiet leaders are now over-communicating.
In addition to unusual behavior by leaders in your workplace, you should also be aware of news in your industry and whether experts believe it could be in danger. For example, realtors are expected to see a downturn, so if you’re an advertising agency that mostly does realty work, your company — and you — could be facing tough times.
If you’re worried about losing your job, there are steps that you need to take before the axe falls. Experts suggest that you need to do the following seven things:
1. Update your resume
Make sure your resume is updated with your latest job information, certifications, awards and key accomplishment metrics. Learning how to write a resume is an art and acquiring these skills can help you throughout your career. In addition, taking the time to craft a well-written cover letter is critical. Your cover letter doesn’t need to be long or elaborate. However, since nearly half of all job seekers skip this step altogether, writing one can help you stand out in a tough economy.
2. Make a copy of key contacts
"Most of us now use LinkedIn for a lot of that networking, but you want to make sure you download a copy of key contacts you will need to network to get your next job," says Sackett.
3. Understand your benefits
Some 49 percent of Americans get their health insurance through their employer. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to stay on your company’s coverage for up to 18 months. If you’re not sure how COBRA works or how to roll over your company 401(k) to an IRA or another employer if you get laid off, now is the time to find out. Most companies have their benefits information online or available through their human resources department, so make sure you’re clear on future coverage. Visit your state’s unemployment site to make sure you understand how to file for unemployment benefits.
4. Don’t do anything illegal
If you download or send anything from your employer to a private account, it can put you at risk of being sued, especially if you sign a severance package, Sackett says. Make sure you don’t "accidentally" take home company equipment without permission during this time. If you do get laid off, make sure you promptly return all company property.
5. Grow your skills
While you’re waiting to find out if you can keep your job, start adding to your skill set. For example, Udacity offers free training in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and data analysis while the Project Management Institute is offering free training materials and courses such as Project Management for Beginners.
6. Don’t gossip
When you’re unsure what’s happening, it can be easy to fall into the trap of speculation and gossip at work. Trashing your boss on social media or speculating about the financial health of the company is not only destructive to your career reputation — but could get you fired immediately.
7. Be careful what you sign
"Whether you are laid off or terminated, most employers have you sign documents on your way out. Many times, this is tied to something like a payout or continued healthcare, so you feel some pressure to sign it so you can get those benefits, but at the same time you are giving up benefits," says Sackett. "No employer can make you sign anything. Take the documents, consult an attorney, and take your time making that decision."
There is a difference of opinion on whether you should start looking for a job if you’re concerned about being fired. Some experts believe you should start a job search the moment you begin to feel worried, while Sackett says you should look for another job only if you’re fully committed to leaving your current employer.
Sackett says he has seen too many people start a job search out of fear of being laid off and wind up getting a job offer they aren’t prepared to actually take because they’re still employed.
"So, it’s a fine balance of warming up your network just enough to be ready for a job search, but not be in a job search," he says.