Thursday, May 29, 2008

Surviving Round Two

Three of the offices near you are suddenly empty. Some faces that had grown familiar to you are gone and a couple of your closest colleagues have been let go. But there’s no pink slip in your hands and you’re ready to breathe a sigh of relief.

Don’t exhale quite yet – round two is coming and your odds of surviving it may be heading south.

Once upon a time, when large scale layoffs were done – they were done! All in one shot. All in a compressed timeline.

Career experts advised getting it over with as quickly as possible and the corporations agreed. After cutting, companies immediately began dealing with the aftereffects - calming the survivors, rebuilding the culture and minimizing the shock to the corporate nervous system.

Not any more. Instead of being one-time events, layoffs now take place in waves like the tsunami or earthquake images replayed on TV.

First comes the big one, then a series of aftershocks seemingly with no end in sight.

Led by the financial sector, companies are drip, drip, dripping out their layoffs over time. It’s become part of their corporate culture. The NY Times called them the Stealth Layoffs and “the idea that banks will slowly wield the knife again and again unnerves many employees."

And it’s not just financial services. Today, Ford announced plans to cut up to 12% of their salaried jobs. ( How many times in the last few years have we heard Ford is cutting headcount?

So, how can you minimize the damage the second, third and perhaps fourth round of cuts could bring? Try these four steps.

Accept reality – No matter how high in the organization you climb, the odds say that it’s not a matter of if you’ll be fired but when. Managing your career based on that fact allows you to hope for the best while being prepared for the worst.

Make managing your career a top priority – Manage your career in a way that benefits both you and the company. Benchmark with those outside the organization, attend conferences and professional events, read the journals, including the columns about which execs are moving where ---a new job filled means a new job opened.

Leverage your workload – Ensure what you’re doing enhances your marketability. Get involved working on the organizational goals that determine your employer’s success or failure. Strive to grow, learn and build saleable skills and accomplishments. They’re your ticket to career security.

Learn to self promote – Graceful self-promotion is an art form, not a science. And while it’s not to your advantage to be seen as someone who hogs the limelight, it’s equally unproductive to be viewed as a wallflower who rarely takes credit for their contributions.

Congratulations - you survived round one. Best of luck in round two.

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