With almost daily news reports of companies laying off workers, or filing for bankruptcy, or going out of business altogether, losing your job suddenly doesn’t sound all that unlikely. Here are some strategies either to avoid being laid-off, or to cushion the blow if it comes.
1. Keep your resume current. If you haven’t looked at your resume in over a year, drag it out and review it. Make sure you’ve included your latest work accomplishments and that it adequately represents who you are. Whether or not you are looking for a new job, you should update your resume every time you get an award, finish a big project, or get a promotion.
2. Stay up to date on the latest news about your company and in your field. Read the business sections in the newspaper. Look at trade journals. Read your company’s annual report. Pay particular attention to stories that might indicate the market for widgets (or whatever your company does) is going south.
3. Get to know people in different departments in your company. The sales and service staffs always know before anyone else how the company is doing. Learn to read the handwriting on the wall.
4. If you think the company might be considering layoffs, get busy finding yourself a new job and then volunteer to leave. If you’re the first one out the door, you can probably negotiate yourself a substantial severance package. Later people won’t be so lucky.
5. Cultivate work relationships. If you’re the kind of person who thinks company golf outings, picnics, birthday parties and other team get-togethers are a waste of time, or if you routinely berate co-workers, steal ideas or lose your temper, you’ll be packing up your desk while good ol’ mediocre Jim in the next cubicle is comparing golf scores. People want to be around people who make them feel comfortable. If it’s a close call on who to keep and who to let go, you and your anti-team-mentality are going to lose.
6. Stay current in your field. Take a seminar. Write an article for a trade journal or an online article directory. Get certified on a new piece of software, or learn some new applications for one you already use.
7. Toot your own horn. Make sure your boss knows just how much you contribute to the bottom line. Get in there and get some face-time. Volunteer to take on extra projects. Bring in new customers or find ways to cut costs. It doesn’t matter how great a job you do, if no one realizes you do it.
8. If you have a lot of personal information on your work computer, get rid of it. Keep copies of performance evaluations, certifications, letters of appreciation, etc, at home. Maintain a current list of networking contacts, personal e-mail addresses and other useful information (including your current resume) on your home computer. If you are laid off, chances are you won’t be allowed to even log into your computer, let alone be allowed to download anything. You probably won’t be able to walk out the door with a briefcase full of papers, either, so plan ahead. I’m not talking about proprietary information you can go to jail for doing that — but you have a perfect right to the names and contact information of people with whom you’ve developed a positive working relationship. There’s nothing to prevent you from calling them to say you’ve left the XYZ Company and to ask them to keep you in mind for any job openings they might hear about.
Losing your job doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but you can cultivate a positive outlook an make sure you’re ready to move ahead if the ax falls on you.