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Layoffs, downsizing, fired, pink slip, RIF.
All of these words strike fear for any employee.
Working as a state employee in Illinois, these words are thrown around a lot lately. It used to be that a state job was the dream.
Job stability, a pension, regular work hours.
That’s not the case anymore.
For two consecutive years, with two different employers, I found myself preparing for a layoff. I had no job security and layoffs were imminent.
The first time around there was quite a bit of notice that layoffs would be inevitable. They told us the timeline for the decisions, but no one knew which positions would be eliminated.
The second time around there wasn’t as much notice, which meant less time to prepare, but it also meant less time to worry and stress
We cannot control if we will lose our job due to downsizing and lack of funds, but there are some things we can do to better prepare ourselves for such an event.
If you or someone you love is facing a possible layoff, you absolutely must follow these six steps to prepare for a layoff and control your controllables.
Preparing for a layoff before it happens.
At the first mention of possible layoffs, it is inevitable to feel anxious, worried, and think worst case scenario. Take a moment, breath, and recognize this as an opportunity to develop a plan. Depending on the timeline (assuming you receive one) for layoffs this could be a several month waiting process. You need to make sure you are taking care of yourself. You need to continue to eat well, sleep, exercise. All of those things positively impact your mental health, which is most important at a time like this.
GET AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE
If you work in a setting that has open board meetings, be sure to attend them. Read minutes from meetings that are available. At this point, information can be empowering. Find out if there is a timeline for the downsizing. Ask people in the know- your bosses. However, do not listen to gossip and speculation or read comments in public forums, newspapers, etc. That information can be sensational and is not necessarily factual at all. The more factual information you know, the more prepared you can be for possible outcomes and the better prepared you are to make important decisions. You might find that depending on the goals of the organization and the direction they are heading in you don’t want to be there anymore. You may start to job search regardless of whether or not your position is cut.
DETERMINE WHERE YOU CAN CUT YOUR BUDGET
.You need to take some time to determine what areas of your personal budget you can cut or reduce. (If you haven’t set up a budget yet, you must do that- check out my post about Everydollar.)
You must first prioritize food and shelter on your budget. After that what are the items you need, then the final things are wants and luxuries.
For instance, when I was facing layoffs the first time, we spent time determining our absolute necessities. If I lost my job, we knew we wouldn’t need to pay for daycare; transportation expenses would be less because I wouldn’t be driving to work, we could cut out cable, Netflix, etc. We determined what our bare bones budget was, decided if we could survive on Brian’s salary alone or how much we would be short every month.
You do not need to cut your budget down to bare bones the minute you hear about possible layoffs, but you do need to make a plan for when you need to. Remember at this point we are only preparing for a layoff, you haven’t yet been laid off.
Once you know layoffs are on the horizon within your company, it is time to save money like crazy. This is how you will survive a layoff financially. If you happen to be working your debt snowball, it is time to pause that and put all extra money into savings. You need to pay the minimums required on your debts and then put all extra money every month into savings.
If your position is safe, you can then take all that extra money and put it towards your debt snowball. In our situation a year ago we had five months from the time we first heard about layoffs until we knew what positions were eliminated. In five months we were able to stockpile money. This provided some peace of mind. We knew that if I got laid off, we would be okay for several months if I wasn’t able to get a new job right away.
BRAINSTORM NEW WORK OPTIONS
For me, this proved to be one of the most helpful steps to calming my anxiety. Once we had discussed the budget and prioritized our expenses, it was time to think about job options. Obviously, if you are laid off, you need to look for jobs in your field but are there are other jobs you could do in the meantime. This is called a stop-gap job- a position that fills the time between jobs. This could be a part-time job at the gas station (a position Brian took in between passing the Bar Exam and getting his first job as a lawyer- not glamorous, but it helped pay the bills, and he could walk to work), a job at a local store, or offering up handyman/woman services.
Regardless of what your educational background and experiences, there is work out there for everyone. Don’t let pride eliminate possible jobs. I’m betting Brian was one of the few recent law school graduates who worked at a gas station. If you have a bachelor’s degree you can always consider substitute teaching- that was going to be one of my main back-up.
Breathing cannot be stated enough. This is going to be a stressful time. You may be worried, anxious, and you tend to think about worst case scenario. Depression at a time like this is normal and you may question your abilities, but you MUST breathe. Take care of yourself, and remember if your company is downsizing it has nothing to do with your contribution to the company. It does not mean you are not a great employee. Sometimes employers have to make difficult decisions, and it probably is no reflection of you or your ability to do your job.
Layoffs are a very real possibility in every field at any time regardless of the economy.
Facing layoffs is scary, but making a plan and being proactive when you first hear about it can help you to save your sanity and take charge of what happens to you. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to save you. It’s not going to happen. Start preparing for a layoff now. Best case scenario is you still have a job and you saved some extra money for an emergency fund in the meantime.