I had this article on the back burner for a while, but the recent layoffs encouraged me to finish it up. We all wish that layoffs didn't exist. It'd be nice if we had guaranteed jobs for life. Furthermore, as a side note, I didn't intend this to be a classic "10 things" list. I had 6 items in the list initially, and mistakenly ended up with 10 items while doing editing. It's a bit of a cliché, I suppose.

However, we control some things in life, and some things we don't control. There are many famous quotes about how we need to accept the things we don't control, and act on the things we do. I'm going to talk about acting. And I'm not going to toss in a cute quote because I'd prefer to write, not google quotes right now.

Those concerned with layoffs have reached out for coaching sessions on interviewing (haven't interviewed in years), for career coaching (decide if this is a good time to change careers), or for general mentorship. As a side note, some companies have a budget to expense training or coaching. If you're that lucky, it's a great benefit!

On a personal note, we have chickens. We have a rooster with said chickens. Usually, that's a fun thing. However, today at 6am, our rooster decided to start crowing incessantly. Why?? It's dark and cold outside. Rooster, it's too early for this.

Layoffs. Always a bummer. Companies make mistakes. They want to impress their shareholders. They need to save money. Whatever. These are things we can't control.

Some people will be fired. What can we control in that situation? Resilience. Making yourself resilient to the vagaries of life. By the way, vagaries is a fantastic word. Apologies for using less common words, in case you needed to google it.

I will walk through eight specific things below (in no particular order) which will help you prepare for upcoming or potential layoffs. They won't prevent a layoff. They won't save you from the negative financial impact. However, they'll help reduce the negative impact to you and your family.

1. Take advantage of your benefits

I pay for a healthcare plan through the Washington exchange, but it's not the best plan. It's a cheap plan for a healthy family. We're lucky like that.

However, it has a big deductible. Many people will move to cheaper healthcare plans (or go without) if they lose their positions.

If it's possible that you'll lose your job, use your benefits. Visit the doctor and dentist. Get new eyeglasses. Buy and expense that newsletter or gym membership (if you're that lucky that your company pays for that kind of stuff). Take some pens from the office supply room. Just kidding. Those pens are terrible. This was a test to see if you were still reading.

Whatever it is that your company will pay for, now is the time to get those last expenses booked and paid for. One more thing you can save on for when you're not working.

2. Refresh your work social network

How is a social network valuable when you need a job? It may be obvious, but let me go over a few specific things.

  • Someone inside a company can put your resume in front of a recruiter, getting you past the huge resume pile.
  • They could also talk to the hiring manager, and put in a good word.
  • Even if a position isn't posted, they may know of a position opening, and get you into the queue before the crowds.
  • For the interviewing process, they'll have a better idea of what the company is looking for, and can give you advice.
  • If you fail the interview process, it's possible they can get some hints of what you did poorly (since companies rarely provide that information officially) so that you can do better on your next interview.

I have repeatedly put my finger hard on the scales to help someone I know to get a job. There are many things an internal employee can impact to give you a better shot at a position. Getting you past the resume screen is a simple start.

Considering that incredible value, how do you make it more likely someone will help you out? Don't reach out to them for the first time in 5 years to ask them for help.

Reach out now, while you preferably still have a job. Say hi. Perhaps check to see if you can help them with anything. Make a small human connection, to keep that relationship fresh.

It might feel nice to the other person to be remembered, and you never know when you'll need that relationship later.

Who do you keep in touch with? The people at companies you like, and the people you liked working with. That manager you enjoyed working for 6 years ago. That co-worker who went off to Google. That person you met at the conference who recently moved to that newer hot startup. It might be a little selfish, but it's social investing for your future.

3. Get things from your work laptop or phone

If you are laid off, it's likely that you'll immediately lose access to your company resources, including your laptop and phone. What's on there that you might need?

  • Did you end up storing some personal photos in a folder? Copy them off.
  • Do you have all your co-worker's contact info? Make certain you have work and/or personal email addresses for those you'd like to keep in touch with. That internal directory won't be available.
  • Is it possible you saved important passwords in your work browser? Make certain you can log into all systems without that laptop.
  • Do you have any 2-factor auth setup on a work phone or laptop? Make certain you don't lose access to an critical system.
  • Is there work product you're allowed to take? For example, some designers are allowed to take designs they've made as a part of their portfolio. Good time to archive off that stuff.

Many of us end up using our work laptop for more than just work, so you need to make certain you're not shocked when you lose access to it.

4. Make yourself more valuable at your current company

Are you worried the layoff hammer might hit your company or organization? Too often people just hold their breath, nervously doing their job like usual, hoping the hammer won't hit them.

In some cases, entire organizations will be cut. Not much you can do to prevent that.

At other times, organizations need to cut several people. How do you avoid being in the list of people cut? You make yourself visibly valuable.

Heading into layoffs is not the time to relax if you want to keep your job. It's not the time to carefully maintain a work / life balance. This is a pivotal moment in your career, and you can't let it pass by.

  • Volunteer to fix emergencies. Help fix the system outage. Write the last-minute document for the meeting. Problems have one distinct thing going for them. They tend to be smaller (so you can address them quickly), immediate, and visible.
  • Talk to your manager regularly. Don't skip your regular one-on-ones. Communicate clearly and positively. Managers are humans, and humans don't have objective measurements built into their brains. If they are asked to fire people from their team, it's more likely to be the people with which they have less connection.
  • Complete your work on or ahead of schedule. As I said, this is not a time to carefully maintain work / life balance. You'll have a ton of time to rest if you're fired. Put in extra work. Get one more task done. Everyone has a very short memory. If they need to fire one person, they'll remember who did the most in the last sprint, and who did the least.

If they're not firing entire departments, it's unfortunately a bit of a competition. Assuming you want to keep this job, you need to stand out from the crowd.

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