Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What To Do If Your Job Survives the Lay-off - Top Ten

Today we've all just begun to absorb the news about the Washington Mutual layoffs yesterday, significant enough to necessitate early notification under the WARN Act. At 34,000 affected over the course of the next year or so, the actual number on the WaMu layoffs is huge. While that is a lot of people planning to be out of work, some people will be dealing with survivor guilt rather than dealing with losing a job.

For the people hititng the streets, it can seem like an enviable position, still going to work every day. The truth is that it doesn't always feel that way when you're the one wondering how you were spared when so many of your co-workers were let go and you're trying not to think about how you're likely to fare in the next round of layoffs that could come along later. Surviving a layoff can be just as stressful as getting a pink slip. Officially hearing what we've suspected for a while now, that we're in the midst of a recession, just makes it worse, wondering if and when the other shoe will drop.

Despite the downsides, there are clearly considerable upsides to surviving a layoff. Here are some tips to make the most out of the opportunity.

1) Take time to grieve - Grieving can seem counterintuitive when your job has been spared, but the significant changes involved when others around you lose their jobs means that your life and work will be different somehow. Those changes mean some kind of loss for you too, so take time to recognize that loss.

2) Take Stock - Take time in the midst of everything else to identify your strengths and your accomplishments and collect evidence of these while you still have easy access to that. Not only will it help you realize that you do indeed deserve (as much as anybody) to continue working, it will be helpful material in the event you too find yourself looking for work.

3) Identify top priorities - Figure out what work most needs doing now that there are so many fewer people to get it done. And decide what tops your personal priority list. You may have a lot more on your plate for a while, so it's more important than ever to plan on purpose how to spend your precious time and attention.

4) Sieze opportunities - Change generally means chaos and while that can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, it also can mean increased opportunities. Take advantage of being in the right place at the right time and step up to meet the new challenges with vigor.

5) Stay positive - You may be asked to do a lot more with a lot less and you may worry about your own job down the line, but for now, you can protect yourself best by keeping a positive outlook. If you do find it necessary to speak up about a problem, look for the most positive way to present it and make it clear you are willing and able to participate in finding and implementing a solution.

6) Start (or keep) networking - Network to help out-of-work friends. It will help them now and can help you in the future if you should find yourself pounding the pavement later on.

7) Save up - With the possibility of more uncertain times ahead, this is a good time to use the job you still have to set aside money as insurance against loss of income, even if it means cutting back expenses to do it.

8) Stay in touch - Go ahead and meet with ex-co-workers (or soon-to-be) for coffee, lunch, or drinks. They're your friends and you can help each other network. Try to keep it one-on-one, though to avoid large numbers of ex-employees who may still be in grief mode or to spare a handful of ex-employees the "business as usual" conversations likely to predominate amongst groups of people still employed.

9) Cultivate a new perspective - Take advantage of the changes going on around you to spend some time questioning assumptions and playing with new perspectives. You never know where these might lead.

10) Get help - Find a helpful and supportive online group or form your own mini-support group to get through some of the biggest changes, If you feel like it's worthwhile, you can also hire a coach to help you strategize your next move. Just don't think that you have to figure it out and deal with it by yourself.

If you are in the more awkward position of being in a job that's on life support, do the prudent thing and take advantage of being able to work for as long as you can, look to Sylvia's list for how to prepare for not having a job later on, and plan ahead for what to do if you're not working for a while.

How can my friends and I help each other right now?