Worried About Layoffs? Here Are 4 Ways To Prepare Yourself, According to a Career Expert

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It feels like I read about a new announcement of layoffs every day. That makes me nervous that my company will be next, and my job will be in jeopardy. I know that I can’t control that possibility, but is there anything I can do to protect myself or best prepare for layoffs?


Losing your job is no joke. There’s a lot of career anxiety swirling in many folks right now, thanks in large part to a slew of headlines about the latest companies to cut jobs, bank failures, and the realities of a slowing job market. It's only natural to have concern about your financial stability, despite being completely at the mercy of your employer. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

I am not a financial advisor, a lawyer, or a human resources expert; I am a burnout-relief specialist and a business professional with nearly two decades of working in various industries. And, I have personally experienced a layoff. Thankfully, my experience getting laid off had a limited impact on my long-term success, because two months later, I started a full-time MBA program.

Will your company have layoffs? What side of the line will you be on? What will the severance packages include? While there are a number of unknowns that you can’t control, there are some actions you can take now as a protective preparation that may reduce some of your feelings of stress.

Here are four things you can do to safeguard your life from layoffs—or at least make them a bit easier to handle, should they ensue:

1. Clarify and focus on your objectives

When it comes to layoffs, bonuses, and promotions, performance is often a key part of the evaluation process. This process includes a review of how well you delivered against your objectives or goals. Many companies have employees set goals each year with their managers to help better measure performance, and ideally they should help guide your projects and priorities throughout the year. Goals written using the SMART method (which refers to goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) ensures clarity and makes it easy to measure progress.

There’s a finite number of hours in the day, and it’s important that you put energy into the things that matter. Not only can doing so help you stay in good standing at work, but it’s also good for your mental health.

There’s a finite number of hours in the day, and it’s important that you put energy into the things that matter. Not only can doing so help you stay in good standing at work, but it’s also good for your mental health.

If you’re reading this and realizing that you do not have clear goals, now is a great time to fix this. Check in with your manager to better understand the goal-setting process and what actions you can take to lock yours in for the year. If you are starting from scratch, review the organization’s priorities and use that to inform what is important for you to do in your role before reviewing them with your manager. If you’ve already set your annual goals, revisit them and see if they need any tweaking based on what current business and team goals are.

2. Keep your receipts

Whether you stay in your current company or end up needing to look for a new role, your ability to communicate your impact and effectiveness at work is essential. I recommend conducting a bi-weekly review of your objectives and your progress. Keep a working document to track your accomplishments, wins, and any positive feedback that you’ve received. Maintaining this running list will help you keep an accurate record and reduce the likelihood of overlooking something important.

This list can be used in a few ways: It can help you keep your boss up-to-date on your projects. It will also be your cheat sheet when it comes to mid-year or annual reviews—having all of your “wins” at your fingertips can give you better leverage for a raise or promotion. Finally, in the event where you have to look for a new job, you can use the information to provide concrete examples of your skills and achievements on your resume or during an interview.

3. Build out your savings as best your can

Financial stress is real. Even if you are not anticipating layoffs in your company, it would be a good move to strengthen your finances. A recent CNBC survey found that 70 percent of Americans are stressed about their finances. Even 57 percent of six-figure earners feel the same!

It’s hard to plan your finances in very uncertain times, but given that it takes an average of five months to find a new job, it’s important to have something squirreled away to lean on in case things go south. I recommend that people look into developing two separate stashes of savings to lean on in case things go south: an emergency fund and what I like to call a f**k it fund.

What’s the difference? In my opinion, the former helps create financial stability, while the latter is more about independence. Your emergency fund would cover your bills and living costs while you’re unemployed, while your f**k it fund can be used to cover intentionally taking time off work in between jobs without tapping into money that’s technically for an emergency. That way if you get laid off, you have a little bit of breathing room to help you get by until you are able to find a job again—or figure out your next career move.

Once again, I am not a financial planner, advisor, or expert, but there are a ton of great tips out there on how you can get started saving for an emergency fund (or other kinds of savings), even if you're cash strapped. I wish that I’d learned about a f**k it fund a long time ago so this is me paying it forward.

4. Understand the nitty-gritty details of any potential severance

If you are directly impacted by layoffs, you may have a severance package—meaning some kind of compensation for being let go. What is included will vary depending on your company, your position, and your performance, but it typically includes financial and other support benefits. The details will likely be communicated to you verbally by a member of human resources and followed up in a written format.

Severance often comes with legal documents you sign. You must read it carefully to understand when and how much you will be paid (for example, as a lump sum or as scheduled payments like a paycheck), how long you will retain health benefits (if at all) after your last day, how your vacation time will be treated (like whether you’ll be paid for unused days), and if there is any job-search support. Lastly, you'll want to confirm the details of any non-disclosure agreements (NDA), as regulations have recently changed so that employers can’t require someone to sign an NDA in exchange for severance.

If you can afford a lawyer, it never hurts to have an extra set of trained eyes to look over your document. Many agreements have a sign-by date, so make note of deliverables and timeline so you can act accordingly.

Layoffs suck. If you find yourself among the millions of individuals impacted by the layoffs, I hope that these tips help you feel (and be!) more prepared. Being let go can be emotional, and while it may compromise your confidence in the short-term, it does not have an impact on your capability or reflect your value to an organization. Get support if you need it. And find some stillness, and take a breath before you jump back into the job search.

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