I am concerned that I might be about to be laid off from my IT job. The company isn’t doing well financially, and I am one of the newest IT employees. I’m in middle management and my salary is pretty good. I figure if anyone is going to get cut, it’s probably going to be me. Should I start looking for a new job, or should I wait? How about recruiters? I’ve never worked with one, but maybe it’s time to start talking to them.

If the economy were not in the shape it’s in, I would suggest you talk to a therapist about your paranoid tendencies. However, in these days of ever-tightening IT budgets, it’s not so paranoid to wonder if you might be laid off. You’re right, too, that when it’s time to let people go, one of the criteria companies use is length of employment and another is compensation. The newest, best-paid people get cut first.

You need to ferret around (quietly) in your company and find out as much as you can about how the company is doing financially. You also need to find out if the company has laid people off in the past and under what circumstances. Some companies do layoffs as an absolute last resort, while some do it on a regular basis because revenues are down, senior management gets worried, and the word goes out to get rid of some people.

Depending on what you discover, you would be wise to come up with a contingency plan. Don’t delay, either. The order to trim staff can be carried out swiftly and without warning. I know of one company in which the employees were called to a meeting and told some people would be laid off that day. The way they found out who got the chop was, after the meeting, when people returned to their desks, some could not log on to the network. Those were the unlucky people and that served as their formal notice.

Having your resume up-to-date on an on-going basis is a good idea these days. So, that’s your first task in your contingency plan. Make this your first priority. Even if you have to take a few days off to get it done, get it done within the next week or so.

Looking for something else
There is nothing to lose in looking for another job, so you might as well go ahead and start the process. Scout the IT job Web sites and look to see what’s out there. Once you have your resume, you can start sending it out into the world. Start making a list of companies in your area that could use your services and get their mailing addresses into a database. You might want to add the names of the head of the HR and IT departments, as well.

As to whether you should approach some recruiters, there is no reason you shouldn’t, but be prepared for a lukewarm reception. You see, the companies that are doing the hiring pay the recruiters’ salaries. When companies aren’t hiring, recruiting companies make less money. You think the recruiting companies would redouble their efforts and scour the world for the finest candidates. Yet, many don’t, preferring instead to sit and wait out the lull in the action.

This means that unless you are a perfect match for a position they already have open (unlikely, given the ratio of open jobs to candidates these days), they may not want to talk with you. They definitely won’t want to talk with you if you say you’re worried about being laid off. They want to work with candidates who have made up their mind that it’s time to leave their current positions.

You should, however, go ahead and try to find a recruiter to work with because you never know what opportunities might be out there. Try to find a recruiter who specializes in filling positions like yours. Some recruiters will try to talk you into an exclusive agreement, meaning you won’t work with another firm. Don’t tie yourself up like that; you need to keep all your options open.

To find a good IT recruiter, ask your colleagues (the people you network with, not the people you work with) for recommendations. You could also check with the nearest chapter of the technical recruiters associations to find a recruiter near you.