If there's one rule about the working world, it’s that no one wants to be caught off guard during layoff season. Of course, during these times of COVID-19, being able to anticipate layoffs can feel challenging at best.
While typically no fault of your own, being laid off can have a serious impact on your professional and personal well-being. Many of my clients suffer PTSD after being laid off and worry about it happening in their next roles. The reality is, although there is often nothing that can be done to stave off the job loss, being aware of certain signals can help you mitigate the damage and prepare in advance. The more control you have over your course and your story, the better off you will be in the short and long term.
The most important factor to surviving a round of layoffs, or thriving after one, is preparation. Check out these harbingers that layoffs are soon to come:
1. There's consistent talk about reorganizing or restructuring.
This can be a tough one to suss out as a reorg doesn’t always mean layoffs. But, if external consultants are bought in you can assume they are there to provide an objective perspective in part to determine who is expendable and who is not. Hopefully, prior to this point you have been keeping regular track of your accomplishments so that you can save yourself when the time comes. Make sure to keep track of your skills so that you can continue to develop professionally and maintain your marketability.
2. Budgets are being cut and earnings are down.
If you suddenly find that the free snacks have dried up, per diem travel reimbursements are gone, and remote offices are closing, your spidey senses should be tingling. Extraneous costs are the first thing to go when company earnings decrease. When those stop moving the needle, people are next. If you can, implement changes to demonstrate cost savings measures and efficiencies. Be an asset in this process.
3. The company is growing too big, too soon.
While a growing company is often heralded as a sign of success, a company that expands too quickly can have disastrous outcomes. Sustainable growth is the key. Employees are expensive and when a company is rapidly expanding its workforce without a reliable, correlating demand for its product or services, something has give. Pay attention to your company's growth so that you can protect your own.
4. There's an impending merger with another company.
Depending on the nature of the merger, this can actually be an incredibly opportunity for professional growth. If your role isn’t fungible (TPS reports anyone?), then you have the potential to sail through the merger. Certainly, the goal is to stand out as much as you can. If, however, there is redundancy beyond your control once the merger goes through, here’s where it gets dicey for you. You never want to be caught off guard because the sooner you know, the sooner you can begin to plan what's next. It's always easier to find a job when you have a job.
5. You’re hearing rumors.
Pay attention to signals beyond your department. Here is where it's helpful to have cross-functional roles that allow you insight into the politics of other departments. Use your internal network to take the company's pulse every quarter or so, especially if you have concerns. As much as you can, don’t engage in the gossip and certainly remain positive at all times. Any negative feedback you have about coworkers or your company can come back to haunt you.
6. Your workload significantly lightens and/or you are asked to take a pay cut.
To quote the great Whoopi Goldberg, "You in danger, girl." Start polishing up your resume, get your network going, and do your research to learn which companies are hiring. Now is the time to proactively shift into job-search rather than job-save mode.
Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured on Glamour.com, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoaching.com.