How to Prepare for a Layoff

This is what I get in my email every day… a Google Alert on the work “layoffs”:


I wonder about those 2,000 employees for the Royal Bank of Scott (RBS), or the 130 employees of USA Today… did they see the writing on the wall?

Did they ignore it, like I did?

Or were they busy working hard, plunking on their keyboard trying to prove their value so their name wouldn’t end up on the list?

Were they hiding in the corner, ignoring reality, or were they out doing stuff in preparation for a termination?

If you came to me and said “Jason, I’m getting laid off in 6 months,” or “I have a six month severance package, WHAT DO I DO??”, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. Figure out your finances. How much time do you have before you have zero dollars in the bank?  This goes FAST.  All of my meager savings  went away because of automobile problems … in the first week of unemployment!  Oops.  Figuring out your finances helps you understand where you are at, how helpful unemployment insurance would be and what you need to make ends meet.  You can start to think about Plan B (asking family for help) and Plan C (asking your church for help), etc.  You can also figure out if a McDonalds job would even be helpful… working 40 hours a week at minimum wage – would that really solve your financial gap?  I’m not sure – you have to do the math on that one.
  2. Start networking. Brainstorm your contact list.  Write every name down – even people you don’t like.  This is not a discriminatory exercise, this is a lifeline.  Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they can’t be immensely helpful in your transition.  Maybe they like you and don’t realize you don’t like them :p  Networking is a continual process… it’s not a one-time communication.  Read at least one good networking book to put you in the right frame of mind.
  3. Figure out what your value proposition and pitch is. Read Peggy Klaus’ book Brag.  Be ready to answer the question “how’s your job search going?”  Be ready to stand up and give a 10 – 30 second elevator pitch.  Fix up your LinkedIn Profile so it communicates your expertise and value prop.  Google your name and see what comes up (and then resolve to get the right results when someone else google’s your name).
  4. Name 3 target companies you are interested in working at. These aren’t the only companies you’ll look at but it gives you a place to start, and when someone asks how they can help (they disguise that question by asking “how’s the job search going?”) you can respond with a request to help network into any of those three companies.  Change the companies every day if you want, but be able to state at least 1 or 2 companies in every conversation you have with someone who can help you.
  5. Get ready for a long process. My dad said “You’ll be out of work for at least 6 months.” I thought he was mistaken but he was absolutely right.  This can be a fun, although frustrating, time.  Spend more time on stuff you’ve been neglecting (books, family, working out, hobbies, etc.).  Don’t beat yourself up for being a casualty – it’s usually not your fault you are on the street looking (along with millions of others).  Get your head in the game, and have the right attitude, or else your bad attitude will get in the way of your networking and other efforts.

Those are the strategies I’d advise you to do as you prepare for a transition – whether it is in a crummy economy (like now) or a great economy (like when I was unemployed… but still couldn’t land).

Here are the tools I recommend you get on right away:

  1. You need to organize your job search and networking efforts.  Where did you send which version of what resume?  Who do you follow up with when?  This is very difficult to keep track of with any non-database system – especially as your job search goes on and on.
  2. This is where professional networking is done and recruiters are here in droves.  Get on LinkedIn and do all the right stuff.  If you need help get my LinkedIn DVD.  Bundle it with the JibberJobber premium account and get significant savings.

There are more but that’s all I’d recommend for now – I don’t want to overwhelm you with were you could be… get started RIGHT NOW.

You may have heard of the concept of digging a well before you are thirsty, right?

That means RIGHT NOW.

4 thoughts on “How to Prepare for a Layoff”

  1. Great list Jason.

    I’d also suggest that folks get to work documenting their key accomplishments in their career (and even in their personal life). If they make this list early, it will be there when they need it (interviews / networking, etc.). This list is a bit different than a pitch, but a good pitch will definitely include some meaty stories. Getting started on this list is pretty simple: it’s sort of like a “Greatest Hits” list, but instead of listing your favorite songs from the 80’s, you include stories that meet the following criteria: 1. you accomplished something, 2. you were good at it, and 3. you LOVED it (this ensures that you don’t just blindly get another job that you again don’t like). Great book that I recommend for this: Targeting a Great Career, by Kate Wendleton.

  2. Excellent post, Jason and I am surprised I am the first comment. This post should resonate with many. I think your steps are critical. Your personal experience that happened before the “Great Recession” is so relevant. I had my own similar experience in 1987 and it shaped every choice I made since which has been pretty much to be self-employed.

    Normally, I don’t leave a link behind but this post I wrote called “Plan for the Unexpected” parallels your post so I edited my post to talk about this one and connect the two,

    As you know from our recent offline conversations, there are people getting to the end of their ropes right now. You and I can’t rescue them all but we can speak from personal experience. My eyes still tear up when I talk about what happened in 1987 even though it was the right path ever since.

  3. Along with Laura’s advice, I’ll add: get all your documents, your employee information, copies of the content of your employee file, your address book, your awards, your performance records, your Rolodex, etc. off-site. EVEN if you don’t think YOU will be targeted by the layoff. Make sure you can access all your important websites and databases (e.g., LinkedIn, professional associations, data sources, etc.) with your own account, not just your work e-mail address. Make sure your professional dues are paid and your contact information is updated. Update your resume — again, even if you don’t think the layoff is for you. It will be useful anyway.

Comments are closed.