It’s not you, it’s the economy. You’re doing everything at work that you need to do. You’re giving it 110 percent. But there are these nasty little signs: there’s a moratorium on office supplies spending. You won’t be reimbursed for taking clients to lunch. There’s another memo about cutting overtime. Everyone else in this industry is cutting staff.
So it looks like you’re going to become an unemployment statistic, but you can’t say for sure. Instead of waiting for some clarity, prepare now. That doesn’t mean stealing pens and sticky notes—there are steps you can take to put yourself in a decent position if a layoff happens. But if you keep your job, you want to be in good standing.
See a Doctor
And a dentist. Make appointments for just about everyone that your health insurance covers. Even a therapist. Maybe you can get advice on dealing with job-related stress. Get as many procedures done now while insured. It’s also a good time to find out how healthy you really are. It will help you make better decisions when you try to figure out if COBRA payments are worth it. By the way, does your insurance cover eye exams? This is a good time to update your prescription glasses or get a spare pair.
Update Your Address Book
Make sure you know how to get hold of everyone. You may need these contacts when you’re looking for a job. The best way to do this is to call them. Have a short conversation and ask how they are doing. When asked about your situation, stay positive. Tell them things are uncertain, but you’re confident you will be OK. You’re not looking for sympathy here. You’re reminding people you’re a positive, confident worker. Even if you never need to ask them for a job, they’re going to appreciate working with you more.
Now that you have touched base with your contacts, friend and link with them in the social media arena. This will reinforce your connection and put their contact information where you can find it when you no longer have the work computer and/or cell phone.
Get out and meet more professionals. Attend chamber of commerce events and professional association mixers. This will give you more contacts when looking for a job. And if you stay where you are, the new connections can still help.
Buy a Flash Drive
Start downloading files. Once you’re notified of a layoff, you may not get a lot of time. Some companies will have you work for a while. Some escort you out of the building immediately. So if there is something on your computer that can help you find a new job, get a copy now. You’re not looking for proprietary information. But save letters you have written that you can use as samples of your writing. Save spreadsheets with complicated formulas. You may want to refer to electronic versions of instructions. Save informative e-mails.
Clean Up Your Desk
OK, you probably will be given a few minutes to collect your belongings. But what can you take home now? You don’t want to be kicked to the curb with a dozen boxes. Clean out the clutter and leave what you can collect in five minutes. And make sure you don’t have anything embarrassing in a drawer. Assume someone will be watching you to make sure you’re not claiming company equipment as personal belongings. Do you want them to see what kind of magazines you have stashed in a drawer?
Visit the Local Unemployment Office
Find out now what you can expect for benefits. This will give you an idea of how much income you can expect. There also may be other programs that can help you. It’s good to understand this now while you’re thinking clearly. A layoff can be an emotional event, and you may not be in the best frame of mind. And knowing now will mean fewer surprises at a time when you don’t need any unknowns.
Start Saving Money
Remember that visit to the unemployment office? Are you going to be able to pay bills with that government check? And if you keep your health insurance through COBRA, that’s going to cost you more. Start shedding expenses. Find ways to live on less. Look at your car. Consider taking in a roommate or becoming one. Don’t put anything on the credit card. You need to prepare financially now.
Consider Delaying Vacation
I’m all for taking time off. You need a break. But this may fall in the category of reducing expenses. And this depends on your company’s vacation policy. Generally, when you leave a company, they owe you money for vacation time you earned. By not taking those days now, you can have a bigger check when you are cut. Think about it carefully.
Get Your Resume Ready
Since you’re not taking vacation and going out as much, you might as well put the time to good use. And since you’ve updated your contacts, plan who you want to use as references. By the way, times are tough for everyone in this business. Like I said, this isn’t the only company cutting staff. What makes you think you’re going to find another good job in this field? Sorry to be a downer, but you may want to take some time to think about a new career. Again, you’re not going on vacation so use the time to investigate a new direction.
Put in 120%
The criteria for deciding who gets cut varies so much among companies. If they have any choice of who goes and who stays, improve your chances. Not only should you do your job better but see if you can do someone else’s job too. Choose something that’s new to you. This makes you much more valuable to the company. It’s another skill to add to the resume — or it’s the opening to another career.
You’re not the only one in a tough spot. See what you can do for other people. Pay the karma forward. You’re going to need the help too, and it will enhance your reputation. Plus you will have the benefit of knowing you helped someone. It’s better than worrying about your troubles.
There aren’t many guarantees anymore, so you need to be ready for almost anything. The best preparation will have you ready to find a new job or succeed at the one you have now.
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