Hewlett Packard recently announced it is laying off approximately 27,000 employees. On the Canadian side of the border, technology firm RIM is planning to lay off staff due to its loss of market share in the wireless industry. Add the high unemployment rate and accompanying jitters in the Eurozone and the global job market looks extremely gloomy.
Although the news is usually shocking, layoffs don’t just happen. Invariably, there are subtle signs that things are amiss, and as companies make these critical business decisions, struggle to maintain a tighter rein on costs, and create “simpler nimbler” structures, job seekers can do their part to weather the layoff storm, if and when it comes.
1. Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs in your company.
If you are becoming a bit jittery at work because things don’t seem right, and if the grapevine is quite active, conduct your own due diligence. Has the company been in the news lately? What for? Did it meet analysts’ expectations? Did it have a management shakeup? Are there dramatic fluctuations of its share price? This is not to suggest that you become paranoid, but you also don’t want to be the ostrich with its head in the sand. The answers to these questions will be a good indicator of where your company is heading and if you should jump ship.
2. Take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by the company.
Many employees do not take advantage of their company’s professional development offerings. These may be formal training where you attend classes outside of work, or free in-house courses offered as lunch-and-learn programs. Even if your company does not offer training, don’t forget the myriad of elearning programs available on the Internet. Although your job may appear safe at the moment, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning.
3. Be on the lookout for internal vacancies, and assess yourself to see if your skills match the requirements.
Speak with someone within that department to gather additional information about the position and then submit your application. In addition, climbing the career growth ladder might sometimes mean having to make a lateral move, so be flexible.
4. Find out if there are opportunities to job-shadow another employee or be cross-trained on a system.
Such initiatives will put you ahead of your competitor, or prepare you for your next career opportunity, whether within or outside the company.
5. Make yourself indispensable (at least give it a try) by keeping abreast of industry developments.
Arrange informational interviews to learn more about a field you are interested in, or to keep current with trends in your industry. Watch, listen, and read the news, and see if you can use any of the knowledge gained to enhance your current position.
6. Start a journal of your special achievements, comments made by your supervisor or coworkers, and awards and recognitions received.
Review your performance appraisals. What did your supervisor say about you? What special projects did you work on, and what role did you play? These notes will come in handy when you are ready to brush up your résumé, or articulate your successes in interviews.
7. Develop and nurture a network of contacts, even if you’re not yet looking for a job.
Many people have the misconception that networking is “brown-nosing,” or it’s done only when one is job hunting. Those are myths. Networking is an ongoing process that takes time to grow, but becomes very valuable when faced with a layoff or when changing careers.
8. Join professional associations, and contribute.
Some people join professional associations but do not participate; they do not volunteer for leadership positions. Their goal in joining the association is to beef up their resumes. Contributing allows you to learn new skills, meet new people and build credibility among your peers. Also, many organizations send their job postings to some of these associations before they hit the newspapers. Saying you are an active member of a professional association will be a great addition to your résumé.
9. Find a mentor, and ask for help.
Is there someone whom you admire in or outside your company? Contact that person and ask if he or she would be willing to be your mentor. Even if they cannot, you could still discuss your uncertainties or your career plans with them. It’s never a weakness to ask for help.
10. Embrace change.
There are times when a layoff is just what you may need to propel you to action; to change careers; to do something different. Redirect your energy into something productive and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Take a long hard look at where you are in your career. Are you satisfied? Have you reached a plateau in the company? Is it time for a change?
After all this, if you are still uncertain about your future, enlist the help of a career coach who can steer you in the right direction. Whatever you do, make proactive choices now, not reactive ones later.
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About this author…
A Certified Career Management Coach, Daisy Wright is Author of “No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Career Success Guide for New Immigrants.” She is also the founder of The Wright Career Solution, where she assists executives, managers, and other job-seeking professionals with their resumes, cover letters, social media profiles, and interview preparation. Daisy can be found blogging at Career Musings, hanging around in CareerTips2Go Cafe as the resident “Coach-on-Call,” or tweeting as @CareerTips2Go and @NoCdnExperience.