My husband has worked for a very successful Fortune 500 company for the past 12 years. He’s also gone through four major layoff cycles in those 12 years. I should actually say “we” have gone through four layoff cycles, because the process is so stressful that it most definitely spills into our personal life.
You might think after surviving four rounds of layoffs you'd feel your position is safe for the long term, but there's nothing safe about working at a competitive, Fortune 500 company. Each instance has sent my husband into a panic. He initially thinks he's safe, but during the time the company decides who stays and who goes, his confidence tanks. He painstakingly examines his performance over the past year and uncovers every microscopic error he might have made that would be grounds for being let go. And even though he's been safe each time, the weeks following the layoffs do not bring peace, because he watches and feels the physical exodus of friends and coworkers who were trying their best but didn’t make the cut.
While there might not be a way to avoid the stress and anxiety, there are certainly things you can do to be prepared for a layoff cycle.
First, it’s important to know there's a federal labor law that requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide a 60-calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 provides transition time for employees and their families to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain other employment, and, if necessary, to enter skill training or retraining programs that allow these workers to successfully compete in the job market.
Regardless of when you hear about a potential layoff, the following tips from Caroline Ceniza-Levine, cofounder of SixFigureStart career coaching, will help you successfully navigate the process.
- Never assume you are or are not on the list of employees to be laid off. Instead of stressing about your future with the company, continue to maintain a high standard of performance and professionalism.
- Do not trash talk your employer. Don't add to the water cooler gossip about the impending layoffs. Instead, maintain a positive attitude about your work and remain neutral in conversations about any potential changes.
- Research your company’s policies, especially those related to severance packages. Learn what is owed to you under different scenarios so you receive the greatest benefits package available.
- Connect with your network. While you don't want to look desperate by blanketing your contact list with a call for help, now is a good time to reconnect with contacts in case you need their help finding a job in the future.
- Update your resume. You should always have an updated resume, impending layoffs or not. It is easier to update your resume as you complete major projects, degree programs or career highlights that it will be to try to piece together a fresh resume at the last minute.
- Use a personal email and phone number for personal items such as financial accounts, social media accounts and to maintain a contact list. That way if you get laid off and walk out the door the same day, you won’t lose access to personal accounts.
Employment website JobMob, lists the following additional tips for preparing for layoffs.
- Brush up on your interview skills. If you get laid off, you will be competing with your current coworkers for the same jobs, so you want to be able to articulate why you're the best choice for the job.
- Let your family and friends know about the situation. Let your friends and family support you through this challenging time. They might also know about job openings that would be well suited for your skill set.
- Save money. You will need as much money on hand as possible if you think you might be unemployed for a while. Your severance package will likely only cover a portion of your expenses.
- Take time to learn new, marketable skills. You might need new skills in order to stand out during the interview process. If you have been with a company for a while, you might not have updated your skills in several years.
- Continue to produce high-quality work. As long as you still have a job with your employer, you should complete every task to the best of your ability. Showing you are a loyal, hardworking employee might secure your current position, or at the least will keep department morale as high as possible.
- Stay calm. Stressing over the possibility of a layoff can lead to poor sleep and poor health. Instead, work hard while you are still employed, and ready yourself for whatever might happen.
While you ultimately have zero control over the results of an impending layoff, now is the time to start preparing. Do your best work, keep an optimistic and confident attitude and be prepared for any possible outcome to avoid a trip to the unemployment office.