Possible Layoffs? – Cover All Your Bases

by Dual Income No Kids on September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

There have been numerous signs that the economy is turning around in the United States, but one factor that has continued to be a black eye on our economy is the unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a report released September 4th, the current unemployment rate rose to 9.7%, from a rate of 9.4% in July. Even the most stable industries are being affected, and mine has certainly not been immune.

I’ve been fortunate enough to not be directly affected (i.e. I haven’t been laid off) but the specter of tough economic times has loomed, as I’ve seen friends and colleagues lose their jobs, or get reassigned to less glamorous positions or locations in an effort to trim the bottom line. Obviously this situation has been very stressful, as our friends in the financial industry has been able to attest to for the last two years. This stress permeates all aspects of a person’s life, and it’s tough to see people you care about and respect fall victim to our economic troubles.

So it seems that the most important thing that we can do to mitigate any potential career troubles would be to prepare ourselves, so that if something bad happens, we’ll at least have a soft landing.

The most important thing to do is take care of your current career, starting with first doing your job well, and secondly, having a good relationship with your boss. I’ve been fortunate enough to be mentored on the importance of both of those factors, and been especially fortunate to have a great relationship with each boss that I’ve had. When I first started seeing people getting laid off, I would get really worried and stressed out, obsessing over every little incident at work, dissecting the minutiae of every conversation with people in authority.

But the best piece of advice that I received during that time was just to relax and do my job. To take care of what I need to take care of and accept that if something bad is going to happen, then at least I will have done everything possible to put myself in the best situation. Having someone that I respected so much give me that piece of advice was enormously influential, and it has helped me cope when the economy started going through tough times.

In addition, there are still many things that we can do to prepare ourselves if something happens.

  • Build an Emergency Fund

This is probably the most important step. After all, we all need a roof over our head and food on our plates. Most experts recommend you stow away enough to be able to pay your bills for three to six months, depending on your job situation, economic health, and the presence of other more pressing needs for money. I struggled with this when I first started working. I went about six months without any emergency fund at all, and then when I did build one up, I found myself drawing on it every once in a while for things that we less than essential. It’s important to stock that money away; put it in a high interest savings account and leave it alone. You never know when you’re going to need it.

  • Build your Social Network

This step is the most important for finding a new job. There are many resources out there that can help with this (Facebook, LinkedIn, even Twitter in some cases) and you should find the one that works best for you and maximize its potential. It seems as though nothing is more important that personal relationships, however. Everyone I’ve known who has lost their job for whatever reason has been able to find a new one because of the strong relationships that they had built up throughout their career. This is harder for people my age, because we don’t have years of industry experience and the associated relationships to draw upon. But even so, former employers/colleagues, college professors and even family and friends can all be great assets when looking for that next position.

  • Evaluate your Budget

If you’re aware of how you’re spending your money, it can be easier to cut back during lean times. I’ve revised my budget countless times, and with the help of such tools as Quicken, each time I feel like I’m getting a better handle on the best way to allocate my money.

  • Know your Employer’s Termination Policy

This is a step that I wouldn’t have even considered had it not been for the experience of one of my co-workers. Knowing your rights as a terminated employee can be crucially important, especially when it comes to the reasons why you were fired and your severance package. Knowing what to expect can certainly help as you go through the process of exiting your job.

  • Grow your Skill Set

Often times I’ve had to take on tasks that were outside of my specialty. While I may not have necessarily enjoyed those tasks, they are marketable skills that could help me find a new position or keep me with my current employer if the company finances take a hit. Any skill set gained is value-added to your employer. A lot of big companies have internal training programs. They’re often boring, and I know I struggle finding time to complete them, but that’s a quantifiable way to show your value.

  • Maintain External Sources of Income

I graduated three years ago, and outside of my primary employer I have collected paychecks from four different organizations. Most of them have been one time deals, and the money hasn’t been enough to replace my full-time salary, but it’s always nice to have a little extra money. Which becomes even more important if you lose your job. A little money coming in is better than no money coming in, and I know of instances where a part-time hobby has turned into a full-time position. It can sometimes be hard to find little pieces of work to add to your income, but those opportunities are out there if you open yourself to them. Love for money making opportunities whenever you can. Think about how you can do things on the side, and you just might end up with one beautiful nest egg.

These are the types of things that I’ve always been told to do, regardless of whether I feel like I’m on the chopping block or not. As with anything, the best way to deal with an unfortunate situation is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Hopefully, this isn’t something that I or anyone reading this will have to experience one day, but if it does, this preparation will certainly help soften the blow.

-Michael
@michael_DINK

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