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Preparing for a Layoff - Things to Do at Home

By Susan P. Joyce

Almost everyone experiences at least one layoff in their work life. According to the experts, many of us will be laid off more than once. So, it's a good idea to be prepared.

Having lived through an extended layoff, several years long, with a previous employer, I know that it's a very stressful time, even if you are one of the "stars" in your workplace. Even top performers get laid off. Don't expect a layoff to be rational!

Prepare to Be Unemployed for a While

You may land a new job very quickly, but you may not.  If you've done a little ground work and some planning, you'll feel more in control when/if the proverbial ax falls. Here are 7 things you can do in advance of being laid off, both at home (below) and at the office.

1.  Be sure that you know your rights.

Look into what is required by your state when someone is laid off. Frequently there is advanced notice required, which can be a couple of months or a couple of weeks. Sometimes, a severance package (e.g. 2 weeks pay) is specified or a requirement exists that specifies you must be paid for unused vacation time you have accrued. It depends on your state's rules.

Contact the people in your local Employment office for the rules that apply in your state. [See Job-Hunt's list of Employment Offices by State]

If you are offered less, let them know you are aware of the applicable laws and regulations. Tell them that you expect the law to be followed. If they don't seem to do that, contact the appropriate organization in your local state government. The local employment office will probably know.

2.  Prepare your personal finances.

Cut back on your spending and increase your savings, just in case you need to survive without a salary for several months. Experts recommend having a 6-month "cushion" (sufficient funds to cover all of your living expenses) available at all times, anyway. But, if you don't have that set aside, get started.

3.  Set up a non-work e-mail account.

Establish a personal e-mail account for your job search. Use Gmail (from Google), AOL, your local Internet provider, or the college you attended, Don't add numbers that look like your birth year ("MariaJones72@...").  Of course, don't use a goofy name like "hotchick@..." or "GoPatriots@..."  You want an email address that will be taken seriously by the recipient, not mistaken for spam.

[Read 4 Killer Tactics to Get Your Email and Resume Read for great suggestions on a good email address for your job search.]

4.  Connect your non-work email account to your LinkedIn account.

If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, get one started now (unless your current employer has a no-LinkedIn or no-social-media policy). If you do have a LinkedIn account, you need access to it from a non-work email address. Otherwise, if you lose your job, you'll lose access to your LinkedIn account without an alternate address you can use.

Make your non-work email account visible in your LinkedIn profile's contact section, so you can be contacted by recruiters outside of your employer's email system.

5.  Create personal business/networking cards.

Don't just cross out the contact info on your employer business cards. Make new cards, separate from your work business cards, to give out to acquaintances and other people you met with whom you want to/need to stay in touch for your job search.

Make business cards with your personal computer and printer and special business card paper which comes in sheets usually with 10 cards per sheet (Avery is one manufacturer). Or you can have the cards printed at your local business supply store, like Staples or Office Max.

To protect your privacy, rent a post office mail box to use in place of your home address on your cards or just include city and state. Use your cell phone or other unlisted phone number that can't be easily traced to your home address.

Put your full name, non-work email address, and target job title on the card.  Don't put your existing employer's job title on the card.  Look ahead to your next job because that's what you will be discussing with people.

Resist the temptation to put your work phone number and e-mail address on the card. It's a tacky thing to do, and it can backfire, big time, if the wrong person answers your phone, hears your voice mail messages, or sees your e-mail.

And, of course, be sure to include your personal e-mail address on the card! Some people have only their name and that e-mail address on the card, which may not be a bad idea.

6.  Update your resume.

You'll need your resume on your home computer anyway because if you are laid off, you won't have access to your office or place of work any more. You'll probably end up with many versions of your resume, and you may end up changing your career in the end (see the bullet below), but you need to start somewhere. So, start here and now.

7.  Start looking for new employers - but ****NOT AT WORK!****

While you are still employed, take the time to look around and decide what you want to do and where you want to work next. 

But DO NOT LOOK FROM WORK.  That's a good way to get fired, or, at a minimum, to have a very uncomfortable talk with your manager.  Remember, your employer may be monitoring your use of the Internet and computers while you are at work.  They may also be monitoring voice mail, and a cell phone or tablet computer if you use one associated with your job.

See 50 Google Searches to Avoid Bad Employers for tips on avoiding risky employers.

8.  Lay the ground work for a career/job change.

You may want to make a career change, too, from a dying industry/ profession to a healthier or growing field.  Take classes, volunteer, and talk with people in your target field about their jobs.  These activities can make your job search much shorter because they will also expand your personal network!

This is the good part about being laid off - you get a chance for a new beginning somewhere else (yes, you may not want to leave, but it also may be an opportunity for a beneficial change, temporarily disguised as a disaster).

For help figuring out what to else you might want to do, read Richard Bolle's classic best seller book What Color Is Your Parachute, and visit his JobHuntersBible Website. This book and website offer you solid advice for your job search.

9.  Establish your LinkedIn Profile.

If you don't already have a LinkedIn Profile, start working on it now.  Be careful not to violate your employer's social media usage policy, if there is one.  To be safe, look for LinkedIn Profiles from other employees and management.  If you don't find any, proceed with caution.

Don't announce that you are job hunting on LinkedIn, in other social media, or any other public online venue.  That can be easily found by your employer and lead to your termination.

10.  Clean up your personal "digital dirt."

Look at your online profiles and other online postings and visibility from the perspective of a potential employer. Do your best to present the image of someone who is hire-able, not someone who would be a bad employee or put the business in an awkward situation. 

If you have been posting "nasty" things on Facebook, get rid of them.  No photos of you partying, using drugs, drunk, or violating the law.  No racist, sexist, ageist, or other bad "-ist" comments or tirades. Clean up your act and get in the habit of keeping it that way.

Bottom Line

Millions of people have survived being laid off, and, if it happens to you, you will survive too. To make survival easier, do what the Boy Scouts have always recommended, "Be prepared!"

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.

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