I’ve been laid off three times: from Disney Publishing, from Fortune 500 electronics company Harman International, and from the business newspaper and website Investor’s Business Daily. Having been through that grinding windmill, I have some tips in case you face a layoff.
First tip: Anticipate it.
Investor’s Business Daily was one of the most stable workplaces I’d ever seen. Many employees had been there more than a decade — some since the company’s founding 30 years earlier. When the company laid off 40% of the staff, hardly any of us saw the gun pointing our way until the bullets had already hit us.
At Harman, an executive called the entire consumer-products marketing team into a conference room on a Friday at 3:00 pm and told us not to come in on Monday. The company had sent our jobs to China. When we returned to our desks, we saw that the company had cleared the computers away and put a stack of cardboard boxes nearby.
Even when revenues are strong and workers are skillful, employers always look for ways to cut costs. Layoffs can happen at any time.
So before the bullets fly, get ready. Whenever you accomplish anything — a new sales peak, an industry award, a streamlining of processes and systems — freshen your resume with it. If a sudden layoff hits, you won’t have to update your resume much; you’ll have updated it already.
Also: Sock money away. When you make a steady living, you might want to spend a little too much from time to time, because next week’s paycheck will cover it. But next week, you may not have a paycheck. If you have any cash left over after your usual expenses, bank it.
Third: Work well with your colleagues. I know, you try to do that anyway. But more than once, I’ve gotten work — freelance or full-time — because people I worked with referred or recommended me.
Job counselors recommend networking within your industry, and it’s a good idea, but it’s not enough. If you could help get someone hired, whom would you recommend: someone you’ve lunched with at a trade show, or someone who’s sweated alongside you and helped you succeed despite unreasonable deadlines and irrational bosses?
Be a good worker, and seek out other good workers. If you’ve already worked with them, tell them that you enjoyed it; if you haven’t worked with them yet, tell them that you hope to.
Next in this series: What to do after you get the bad news.