Layoff limbo: 10 ways to survive

Learn what tech professionals can do when layoffs may be looming.

Layoff limbo: 10 ways to survive

Layoffs are a fact of life, and--in this age of globalization, downsizing, mergers, and acquisitions--all too common. 

While you may not be able to control your employment status, you can control how you respond to a potential layoff. Here are ten ways to prepare. (These suggestions are best practices you can employ no matter what state your employment is in).

This article is also available as a download, Layoff limbo: 10 ways to survive (free PDF).

SEE: Interview tips: How to land your next tech job (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Update your resume/job sites

It's always a good time to update your resume and any online profiles you may have posted on job sites. Ensure that you are as accurate as possible and reflect your current job duties, accomplishments, dates of employment, and other relevant information.

Also, make sure to include detailed descriptions of the products you've worked with. Updating this information is easy to do while you're still employed since you can obtain software version numbers or describe documented processes that you've followed. Just do not appropriate any confidential information.

2. Assess the job market

Check out the best websites to find new jobs through various online links. Bookmark the ones you like, (and search for others) and take a look at what's available. Where are the jobs located? What are the more popular jobs? Which ones fit your skill set?  You might find yourself enthusiastic about the results. You might even find a job you like better than your current one and move along voluntarily.

3. Assess your skills

Now's a good time to take a hard look at your skill set and how you can represent it to potential employers. Remember, you must sell yourself in any upcoming job interviews. For example, if you have "storage expertise" listed on your resume, did you work with these products on a daily basis or install something once? 

Are there areas where you need improvement, such as obtaining knowledge of the latest product releases of software that you're supposed to be an expert on (such as Windows Server products). The last thing you want is to walk into an interview proclaiming yourself a wizard in a particular area and then stumble under the weight of a few softball questions about a concept you've forgotten.

4. Determine whether a career change is in order

As you prepare for the possibility of a new job, you may realize that you don't want a similar job going forward. Perhaps you're a system administrator who is burned out on "slow Outlook" and password reset requests, and cybersecurity sounds more interesting. Maybe you're a developer fed up with code complexity and concerned about offshoring, so you'd rather be a project lead. Maybe you're in management and want to go back to being a technician (individual contributor).

If that's the case, assess what you need to do and develop a plan of action. Even if you find you're not in danger of a layoff, you can plot the course of your career transition for when the timing is right.

SEE: 10 mobile apps to simplify your job search (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5. Consider a transfer within the organization

Layoffs may not apply across the board. They may be targeted towards certain individuals or groups deemed redundant, unnecessary, or overstaffed.

Find out if it is possible to transfer to a more stable and secure department within the same company, thereby eliminating the threat of losing your job?

This is where it's important to have good relationships with coworkers and groups throughout the organization. Not only is it the appropriate and professional thing to do, but such relationships can pay dividends in situations like this if coworkers who know your work ethic and level of commitment consider whether to hire you in a different department.

6. Determine what's acceptable in a new position

Think about what is important to you in a position. We all have our standards for the type of employment we will accept. This could be based on salary, commuting distance, possible travel, the type of work, benefits, pension plans/401K, or the type of people we'll work with, and work for, to name a few.

For instance, for seven years I once commuted more than an hour each way for a job until I decided I had enough; the job was fine, but the driving was simply too much. For me, a commute of thirty minutes or less is essential for my sanity. Same goes for pay level; there's a certain threshold you can't afford to go below, or If you have a family, chances are you're not going to want to accept a job that entails 90% travel (or maybe you do?).

Once you determine your top priorities, you can begin screening out jobs, which don't fit your needs (and advise any recruiters as such).

Which brings me to my next point...

7. Get busy networking estimated a couple of years ago that at least 70% of jobs are landed through networking -- I'm sure that figure is higher today. I've held five jobs in my professional life, and not a single one was obtained by answering a want ad or through a blind application. In every instance someone I knew arranged the job.

So, while it's important to contact recruiters, make sure to also reach out to friends, colleagues, coworkers both present and past, neighbors, etc. It doesn't cost anything to ask someone if they know of any open positions or to keep you in mind if an opportunity presents itself. 

SEE: Policy pack: Workplace ethics (TechRepublic Premium)

8. Hone your interview skills

It's not enough to make sure that your tech skills are up-to-date and accurately documented for potential employers, polish up on your interview skills, as well. I've seen many candidates with significant tech smarts come across as wishy-washy and bland during interviews. Conversely, I've also seen many individuals who might be weak in one area but exude enthusiasm, an eagerness to learn, and a relaxed personality, which caused me to advocate for hiring them.

Don't use your first few rounds of actual interviews for practice. Instead, work with recruiters or a career coach to address any potential gaps in your presentation to sell yourself to companies.

9. Keep living your life

The hardest thing for many people living under the threat of an impending layoff is the uncertainty. Not knowing what's going to happen is a challenge, but carry on as usual to the best of your ability. Also keep your spending to a minimal just in case you need to live off your savings and/or credit cards during an employment transition.

Oh, and you do have at least three months of salary saved away for emergency purposes, right?

10. Stay positive

Changing jobs isn't always fun. It can be depressing to think about starting all over in a new environment. However, keep in mind the average person has 12-15 jobs in their lifetime. Furthermore, average employee retention time is 4.3 years for men and 4 years for women

Instead, focus on the opportunities a new job presents -- not the drawbacks. If layoffs do occur, this unfortunate situation could lead to an even better job.

Also see

businessman holding personal items box ready moving leaving company. concept layoffs.

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