Thursday, July 17, 2008

Outrunning Layoffs

Pink slips are falling like confetti in a New York City parade.

What started in the canyons of Wall Street has seemingly spread like a virus throughout much of corporate America. Fueled by the problems in the credit markets, the housing sector and wherever the increase in the price of oil or the falling dollar can be felt, jobs are hanging by a thread…. or at least, it feels that way.

“Will I get fired?” is the question uppermost in many executives’ minds today, but it’s the wrong question. Trying to answer it only leads to angst, nail biting and nighttime sweats.

“What if I get fired?” is the right question. Trying to answer it leads to identifying goals, establishing concrete objectives and implementing workable action plans.

Be financially savvy

First, know your numbers. Put pen to paper and get an in-depth understanding of your entire financial position. Calculate how long you can comfortably maintain your lifestyle without your current income.

Then, factor in your anticipated severance package. If you negotiated your exit package prior to being hired, you know exactly what it is you’ll be getting. If not, try to ferret out the information.

Getting a handle on monetary matters sets the boundaries and allows you to determine realistic options, next steps and timetables.

Be career savvy

Once you know where you stand financially, you can tackle the next question. “Should I stay and see what happens, or should I escalate my career efforts and aggressively seek another job?”

For many executives, being laid off can translate into a financial windfall. Taking another position and walking away from a severance package could be a costly error. Not an easy decision in a time of uncertainty.

If you’ve been actively managing your career; maintained search contacts, built a quality network and tracked companies where you could add value, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how marketable you are. If you haven’t, now would be a good time to start.

Be business savvy

Objective analysis of both your financial condition and marketability will indicate whether your smartest course of action is sitting tight or accelerating a job campaign when layoffs are on the horizon.

Of course, in the best of all worlds, you’d have a job in your back pocket that you could start right after collecting severance. That’s often a Houdini-like trick that is very difficult to pull off, though it does happen on occasion.

No matter what you do, the key is to approach the possibility of a job loss with the same thought, planning, objectivity and proactive attitude you’d use when addressing any business issue ... stay ahead of it.

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