Stories by Dan Cobb

Preparing for a layoff makes it less traumatic

In today's unpredictable economy, all professionals should be prepared to react quickly and positively should their employment become unstable. Even those who feel most secure and consistently perform at high levels are vulnerable to threats beyond their control, like a company downsizing, filing for bankruptcy protection or going out of business altogether. In many cases, it doesn't matter how good you are at your job or how hard you work.
Recession or not, it's always a good idea to plan ahead for potential career derailments before they happen. Preparing for a layoff can help ensure you have enough money saved to live on while you're unemployed, give you an advantage in finding a new job and minimise the stress involved in this painful situation. Here are steps you can take to help keep a layoff from hitting you too hard.
Stay in the game. Always have a passive job search in progress. Keep your CV updated, and your eyes and ears open for new job openings. Periodically hit the online job boards to see what's out there. Even if you like your current position, you could find a similar one that pays more or has better benefits. And you never know when your dream job might open up. Passive job seeking can help maintain a steady stream of job leads and keep lines of communication open between you and recruiters. If you get laid offyou'll have a head start in finding and landing your next job.
Meet recruiters. Good recruiters like to meet passive job candidates. They want to get to know candidates who are good at their jobs, perform well and have desirable skills but aren't seriously looking for a new position. If they are able to build a relationship with you over time, when a suitable opportunity crosses their desk, you're more likely to be among the first they call.
Build your skill set. Versatility is a crucial trait to have if you get laid off. A broader skill set can give you the ability to pursue a wider variety of jobs — something you might have to do if openings in your specialty are scarce. In your free time, work on skills outside your core competency. For those in IT, writing is a good one to focus on. Consulting is another.
Have an emergency fund. Most financial planners recommend that you have enough money in a savings account or emergency fund to cover your expenses for three to six months. Maybe you won't be able to go out to dinner every weekend, but you'll have enough that you won't need to sell your car or house, or take other drastic actions. In today's economic environment, the more you have saved, the better. It's not unusual to take six months to get a new job. Having money at the ready to pay for expenses takes some stress away from getting laid off, and you'll be better able to focus on finding a new job.
Maintain important documents. There are a few documents you should always have in your possession as an employee. They are your employment contract, latest retirement account statement, offer letter showing starting salary and terms, and any subsequent recommendations or promotions that show changes to pay or benefits. Have a firm understanding of your employment contract, including noncompete agreements. It's much easier to get these documents while you're employed. Also, maintain an updated portfolio of your work. It'll be much easier to begin sharing it with recruiters if you suddenly need to find a job, rather than scrambling to gather materials once you find out you've been laid off. You might not have time to get them together, or have access to them after you've left the company.
There are many things to consider when preparing for a layoff. The more you follow through with, the more successful you'll be at getting a new job. Mobilise your resources, and look for ways to solidify your position as an attractive employment candidate, during good times and bad.
Dan Cobb is a senior vice president at Yoh, a recruitment firm in the US

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