Things NOT to do when preparing for a Layoff

layoffgreyUnless a layoff is inevitable, do not start looking for a new job when you enjoy your current one; a down market is the wrong time to change jobs. Contrary to what job-seekers often believe, employers frequently realize when someone is looking for another job. While in many markets this gut instinct or factual knowledge is un-actionable, in a down market it can be the one thing that brings your name to the top of the list for the next round of layoffs. Instead, take your time and energy building your network, not only will you be building a strong foundation of relationships, you might spare your job if a layoff is announced as you bring new projects and work into your company. So what should you NOT do when preparing for a layoff?

  1. Use work computers to search for a new job – A well known firm in the Baltimore area has a tracking system on their employee’s web-browsing. It was set-up to ensure that employees were not visiting inappropriate websites, but it has also been used prior to layoffs to see which employees were visiting Monster.com.
  2. Take 2 hours off for a “doctors” appointment – Most employers have learned to look for dress shoes and pants if you have been to the doctors’ office a couple of times lately but don’t seem sick.
  3. Get a job-seekers attitude – One of the most identifiable ways employers know when someone is looking for a job is through a change in attitude. Job seekers have a tendency to look short-term and begin to withdrawal emotionally from the office.
  4. Complain – Layoffs are hard on everyone, but they are especially hard on key decision makers. A great way to protect yourself being included in the next downsizing is to be apart of the group that is working to further the company and change things around. Try calling a client or potential client with the time that you would otherwise spend complaining to others at your company.
  5. Downplay accomplishments – You might not be winning as many new projects as you were two years ago, but be certain that you celebrate the successes that your company is having! It usually only takes one person who is willing to get excited about a success for others to want to become apart of the celebration.
  6. Stop Dreaming – The free market economy is an amazing economic system. What I have found interesting in my study of economics is that recessions are REQUIRED for a free market economy to thrive. Recessions force companies eliminate waste and focus on core competencies that allow the economy to grow past its previous heights after the recession is over. What this means is that a recession is the foundation to the next economic boom. So stop looking for another job and start positioning yourself for what you will accomplish during the next economic cycle.

Preparing Your Network for a Layoff

layoffThe key to recovering quickly from a layoff is to prepare your network prior to being laid off. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have lost their job to connect and reconnect with important relationships. Instead of waiting, preparing your network for the possibility of a layoff serves two key purposes:  1) It reengages your relationships so that you have recently been in touch before you call them to let them know you are looking for a new job and 2) Oftentimes making a concentrated effort to strengthen your relationships results in bringing in new work, and since employers seldom layoff employees that are actively bringing new work in the door, you may just spare yourself being laid off all together. With this foundation, here are the steps you should take to prepare your network for a layoff:

  1. Identify your network – Believe it or not, many people never take the time to write down the people in their network. Personally, I maintain a “hot-list” of 20 to 30 relationships that are my core connections, and a longer-list (hundreds or thousands) of connections that that include most of the people I have connected with over the past two years. On my Hot List are the relationships that I can count on and that I have been purposefully building as mutually benificial relationships for years. The longer list contains information on where and how I meet each person and is categorized by where each relationship is in the relationship development process. Taking the time to identify your network will ensure that you are prepared with a list of who to contact and how to contact them in case you are laid-off. It will also serve as your list of contacts to reengage over the next several weeks as you work to prepare your network for the possibility of a layoff. Finally, I use this list as the foundation for developing a strong long-term relationship network.
  2. Connect and re-connect with your network – Your network is only as strong as the relationships in it. If you haven’t connected with someone in over a year they probably won’t be much help in the event that you are laid off. Your goal then is to connect with everyone over the course of the next several weeks. The INCORECT way to do this would be to pick-up the phone and call everyone on the list. This would just lead to hundreds of very awkward conversations. Instead, think about ways that you can help everyone on the list. I often send articles of interest to my network; for example I sent out articles last week about the current government bailout. My goal is to always help others in my network, not simply to brag about a recent accomplishment. Showing others in your network that you are interested in helping them goes a long way to building strong relationships.
  3. Build your brand– If you don’t yet use LinkedIn, it is a great resource. LinkedIn allows you to see when others change jobs and ensures that you never again loose a connection. This is especially important if you change jobs, so that others can find you even if you don’t have a work phone number or work e-mail address anymore. So, what does this have to do with building your brand? Simple, everyone has perceptions, and you can leverage online networking sites (or a blog for that matter) to build your brand. If you are always commenting on and posting information on historic architecture, others will begin to associate you as an expert in historic architecture. In the same light, if no one ever hears from you then you will quickly be forgotten. The idea is to stay visible to others in your network with a consistent image of who you are. How you brand yourself is how people will view you, and how you are viewed, quickly becomes who you are.
  4. Don’t look for a job – Seriously, the worst thing that you can do if you enjoy your current job and you are afraid of a pending layoff is to look for another job. I’ll explain more in my next post “Things NOT to do when preparing for a layoff.” I hope you’ll stop by on Thursday morning to read more!

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