If you notice warning signs at your company that clearly say, “Somebody’s going to be leaving here on short notice,” don’t wait until you’re handed a pink slip to start thinking about your next career move.
Here are nine tips that can help make a layoff less traumatic, and put you on track to quickly land a new job.
Assess Your Next Move
It can be unnerving to show up for work every day knowing that a layoff is looming. Help relieve some of that tension by taking stock of your professional situation. Ask yourself:
1) If you had to change jobs quickly, would you pursue the same type of assignment you have now?
2) Where would you focus your job search and how would brand yourself for the next project?
3) What have you learned on your current job that could be beneficial in your next venture?
4) Would you consider independent consulting — perhaps even for your soon-to-be former employer?
Revive Your Resume
An effective resume nowadays draws a smooth line between your background (highlighting your entire career, not just your current role) and the positions you’re targeting in your job search. If a layoff is, indeed, in the works at your company, you’ll want to rewrite your resume to focus on the relevance of your previous jobs in relation to the positions you’re pursuing now.
For example, if you’ve spent several years in human resources, but prefer accounting and want to highlight that aspect of your skill set, under your current job functions, showcase the accounting-related work you’ve done.
Update (or Create) Your LinkedIn Profile
New users should get comfortable with LinkedIn.com, which is a social networking site targeted towards professionals, by joining a group, answering a question on LinkedIn Answers, adding a blog or other content to your profile, and using the search capabilities of the site’s massive database.
Before you change anything on your profile, however, go to the settings and turn off outgoing notifications to your network. Doing this allows you to work on your profile without alerting the whole world. Update your profile with details on your current job, update your picture if it needs freshening and cultivate some new connections while you’re at it.
Expand Your Network
Most employed people (sans entrepreneurs) don’t network nearly as much as they should. If your senses are telling you that a job change is likely — whether you want it or not — it’s time to reconnect with former colleagues and make new professional acquaintances.
That means at least one breakfast or lunch per week with someone you know. Remember to talk about what’s new in both of your lives, and if you’re comfortable, gently request an introduction to second-degree friends who should be a part of your professional network.
Get to Know a Respected Headhunter
Every white-collar job-seeker needs a headhunter in their corner. If you’re not already on the short list of at least one search pro in your industry, make a new friend who fits that description. You can meet them through friends or find one online and initiate contact.
Headhunters will be able to provide you with feedback about your resume, let you know what your background is likely to fetch in the marketplace and tell you about local firms with open positions in your field. As long as you respect their time and remember that job-seekers don’t pay their salary — employers do — you’ll find a search partner that’s a valuable ally.
Determine Your Value
Most people who’ve been employed at one company for many years have no clue how much they’re worth in the current job market. Use sites such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com and Payscale.com to help determine an appropriate salary amount for your experience level. You’ll need that information when an employer asks what you’re looking to earn. Many industry-specific publications, such as InfoWorld (for IT pros) and Adweek (advertising folks), publish an annual salary survey that can help provide a better idea of what your asking price should be.
Mobilize Your References
Even if a layoff is in the very near future, your current employer can still give you something incredibly valuable in the form of references from fellow colleagues. Start cultivating your reference list now, and include at least one co-worker, a customer or vendor you’ve done business with over the years and a subordinate. If you can make contact with a former boss, that’s even better. If there are colleagues you’d hope to stay close with assuming the worst, get their personal e-mail addresses and phone numbers, too.
Start Your Job Search
Take a look at Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com, two major job aggregation sites, to see what employers in your area are looking for. Research specific employers by trolling LinkedIn to see who’s working where, how certain employers fare in their competitive arenas and what companies are looking for as they grow their teams.
Once you’ve figured out what direction you want your job search to take, test the waters by applying to positions online. Remember, employers prefer job candidates who are already employed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
If you do learn that your position has been eliminated, immediately discuss critical details, such as severance pay and health benefits coverage, with your manager. Determine whether terms are negotiable. Keep your cool during this conversation, but insist on complete answers. If your manager can’t give them, then ask who can. While getting laid off can be an emotional and confusing time, it can be made even worse if you fail to ask questions and take the necessary steps to prepare.