Why Getting Ahead of a Layoff is so Important

Dana Underwood Avanti Alliance discussing how to get ahead of a layoff

A layoff is coming, now what?

It seems like with every week that goes by, I know more and more people whose jobs have been impacted by the current pandemic. Even our family was impacted with my husband losing his job last month. While we were prepared there is always an element of surprise. What’s most challenging about a layoff is that no matter how talented you may be or how hard you work, you have very little control over the outcome. While you can’t control the outcome, you have full control over your reaction to it. 

Large layoffs are hard to keep quiet. Most times, you know something is coming. You don’t know when and you don’t know exactly what it will look like, but that is your golden opportunity. Your time to act. 

Waiting to figure out if you are impacted may be the easiest thing to do but if you are impacted you will have lost valuable time to get ahead of what is coming, not to mention the competition. 

I am not suggesting you run out and apply to every job you find that is remotely like what you currently do. I would NEVER suggest that under any circumstance. Getting ahead of a layoff requires strategy and creativity.

know where you work

This isn’t the time to be in denial. As I mentioned above, even if you don’t “know” you are going to get laid off typically you have a pretty good idea something is coming. Has your company been struggling financially? Have there been articles in the press speculating on its future? Have your quarterly earnings been much lower than anticipated, or are there new strategies and talks of streamlining? All of these things are red flags. It doesn’t mean layoffs are guaranteed but it means they could happen. If you know with reasonable certainty that something is coming, that is your window.

Logistically there are also some things you need to consider. Do you have a good understanding of what your benefits are? Does your company offer severance? Are you currently under any type of contract? Knowing these things helps you evaluate how to act. For example, if you know you have a solid severance package and will be covered with health insurance for several months after your potential layoff now might be the perfect time to look for some of that freelance project work you have always wanted to do.

Before a layoff, or when you think a round may be coming, is also a great time to get the most out of your company’s benefits. Get your annual physical, get an updated pair of glasses or contacts, go to the dentist. Use what you can while you can. You have already paid for these benefits so make sure you are getting the most from them. 

strategize a plan

Now, before a layoff, is the perfect time to plan out your ideal scenario. Where do you want to be in your career, what do you want to see as your next step? How can you get there? Don’t start from where you are. Start with where you want to go and work backward from there. What steps do you need to take to start making it a reality?

What are your non-negotiables? These are things that you have to have in your next role in order to feel fulfilled and untimely be happy. Use your top three non-negotiables as your filter going forward. Anything that does not meet these requirements don’t waste your time on. A layoff may change your priorities but it doesn’t change who you are. You are still as talented and valuable as you were prior to the layoff. The things that got you to this point in your career still exist. Do not take the mentality that you are coming from a place of weakness. Be confident in your strengths and abilities. When you operate from a place of strength you show up differently, you exude more confidence and are better able to showcase why you are such an asset.

work your network

Reaching out to people who know and have worked with you should be your first move. Be honest with them. Share what you suspect may be coming. Ask if they have any leads on new opportunities and if they can keep you in mind if they see an opening in the future. Ask what you can do for them! If you expect your network to only serve your needs you will find that you don’t have a strong network at all. A meaningful network connection is one that provides mutual benefit.

Grow your connections

Don’t only leverage your network for current openings or opportunities. Use your network as an introduction to people. As you are already most likely aware, personal connections and relationships are the most effective ways to advance in your career. This is true no matter the job market climate. People want to work with people they trust and know. People who are a good cultural fit and come highly recommended. The more people that you can connect with, the broader your network becomes. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know. Explain why you would like to connect and what value you can bring to the relationship. Connecting with people in your field or in a similar industry is a great way to expand your perspective. How do they approach challenges, what are the trends they have been seeing in the market? Use your time not only to connect as a way to build your network but as a brainstorming session with a thought partner. What perspectives and insights can you offer them? How can you make the time spent mutually beneficial?

Join your industry community

Joining a professional network is another way to become known and make connections in your industry. And it’s a great idea for a number of reasons. It gives you exposure to other companies, new contacts, and it shows your talent and expertise to professionals you would otherwise never have known. A professional network is also a great way to continue learning and growing as a professional. Often these networks will host speakers and events use these as not only time to network but to learn from others. Take advantage of these resources.

Remember, this community will only be as strong as the commitment from its members. If you hope to be able to leverage these connections when you need them be sure you are also willing to help others. Actively work to connect others and provide support to those members who are going through job changes and transitions.

Keep an eye out for jobs

You don’t have to wait until you lose your job to start looking for your next opportunity. Set aside a little time each day to look for potential new roles. In competitive markets the best jobs go quickly.

Apply for roles you would be excited to have as a next step. So many people let the unknown stop them from taking action. “But what if I don’t lose my job?” Apply and get the job. You can always decide not to take it if you end up not getting laid off OR you may find it is precisely the opportunity you have been looking for and it makes sense to jump even if you survived the layoff. Applying for jobs you are excited about doesn’t have a downside. You will gain valuable practice showcasing your talents and accomplishments to a new set of industry contacts. If all goes well, you will also gain valuable network connections. 

update your resume

I know this is a tedious task, but don’t wait to do something that is the price of entry in your job search. The reality is you won’t be able to move forward if you do get laid off without a resume that reflects your most recent work history, so why wait? Resumes take time and effort if you do them right. You want to be able to hit the ground running when and if something does happen. Additionally, it is much easier to include specific, quantifiable information while you still have access to it such as sales growth, size of business etc. 

find a coach

I know spending money on a career coach as you are facing an impending layoff seems counter-intuitive, but, and I speak from experience, coaches can be invaluable in helping you navigate the uncertainty. They can help to identify not only what you want next but HOW to get there. They can help you identify blind spots and point out your innate talents, things you could be overlooking. Coaches also typically have a vast network of contacts and one of the less spoken about benefits to coaching is the ability to tap into that network with a personal introduction.

Whatever you do, make sure you come at it with a take-charge, proactive attitude. This will help you take control of your career and your destiny. If it doesn’t catch you by surprise, and you’re ready for it when it comes, you’ll feel more empowered to do something about it. 

All of this is why I began coaching. I’m here to help people prepare, take charge, and manage their futures. To help you take back the power and realize you are in control of your career. That’s what I’m passionate about. If you feel you want to get ahead of a layoff, if one just happened, or if you simply are ready to take the reins, get in touch. I’d love to help. 

If you are currently navigating a layoff and need a game plan, you can find my free 5 Step Layoff Action Plan here

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