“The market plummeted yesterday, the Dow is down at the opening today, and the blah blah company is merging with the ump-de-ump bank. Major layoffs are expected…”. Corporate greed or media screed? Too bad for us, but we’ve got an unhealthy dose of both.
Headlines and talking points that I’m sure we’re all equally sick of hearing and reading about. And, as the media vigorously stirs this pot with a vengeance, greatly contributing to the climate of uncertainty, they-no surprise-end up as the real winners. ‘Cause the more they hype and exploit every situation, the more their listenership expands and their readership increases. You don’t need a CPA to tell you that the media reaps a financial windfall, and a power bonanza, each and every time they scare us.
So we all begin to worry, to wonder if our jobs are really as secure as we thought they were, just a few short weeks ago. More to the point, however, is the confidence level of the companies that we work for. Sure, we all expect the usual corporate whine. Citing ‘cost over runs’ and/or ‘reduced profit margins’, your well-deserved raise or bonus will likely be delayed. And there’ll be the customary crap about achieving economies of scale and the like. That’s really more par for the course, even (or especially) in the good times.
But what is frightening is the recent array of blogs, magazine articles and even trade journals that provide bosses with recipes as to how to ‘let staff go’. So, and while there sure isn’t any one antidote to this growing hysteria, there are six relatively easy actions that you can take to be as proactive as possible during these uncertain times. Following these will help you be prepared, should the worst happen, to get your career back on track…
Get a sense of how your company is financially positioned. Simple stuff, like what their stock is worth, whether there’s any talk of mergers or acquisitions, how the company’s competitors are doing, if any major projects have been put on hold. If you work for a non-profit or government, whether grants and budgets are being approved. If you are unionized, learn what rights and protections you have. Your main job here will be to separate fact from fiction-no easy task, even in the best of times.
>UPDATE YOUR RESUME
‘Nuff said! (Perhaps hire a professional resume writer)
>MAINTAIN/EXPAND YOUR CONTACTS
There’s nothing more awkward, more uncomfortable than calling someone you’ve either avoided or simply ignored for a long time (until, that is, you want something…). To avoid this feeling, and the typically cold response you can well expect, begin reaching out-now. Contact old friends, colleagues and potential references, and -for now-keep it mainly social. Swapping work experiences and concerns is by itself healthy, but more importantly lays the groundwork for future contact, and, if necessary, favors.
>COPY YOUR WORK FILES
It’s now become common practice for companies to have their network administrator quickly de-activate passwords, so as to deny all computer access to employees targeted for layoffs. Also, it’s SOP for them to have security (or HR types) escort the unfortunate and suddenly now ex-employee out of the building. All the more reason for you to cull both your electronic and paper files. Make copies of your major work products, reports, project updates and the like. Also be sure to have copies of your performance evaluations. These documents are a major and valuable part of your career history, and will definitely help you get re-employed. Do this now! Remember, that if you’re targeted for a surprise layoff, you won’t get the chance to obtain any proof of your achievements and accomplishments.
>ASSESS YOUR BENEFITS PACKAGE
*Time and Leave Balances-count up how many vacation and possibly sick leave days that you’ve accrued. Learn your company’s policies as to time accumulation, carry-over, and whether you’re entitled to be paid for any unused time. If the rule is ‘use it or lose it’, then they’ve already answered this question for you.
*Insurances-review your company issued health and life plans, know your policy numbers and what, if anything, these benefits cost you. Check with the carriers to see whether there are any carry-over or COBRA-like provisions, so that you’ll know whether you can maintain coverages at any kind of reduced rates, after being laid off.
*Medical/Dental Care-if you were planning on any kind of work, exam, test, etc., then now’s definitely the time to do it. Remember that root canal you so desperately want to avoid? Guaranteed that it’ll be a helluva lot less painful if you don’t have to pay for it out of pocket. Let it be the company’s treat.
>SURF THE WEB
Begin, if already haven’t started, to check out potential employers. Information as to job descriptions, qualifications, salary and a range of related information is yours for the asking. Gathering, pruning and keeping current a list of potential employers will definitely give you a head start, should you need to begin a job search quickly.
Despite their claims to the contrary, companies don’t really feel too badly, if at all, even when letting go of loyal, dedicated, well-deserving and hard-working staff, especially during hard economic times. Their ethos is, after all, the bottom line. And that’s why you owe it to yourself to be as protected and prepared for the worst as possible. Like the oft-quoted line from The Godfather; “…it’s not personal, it’s business.”