Thursday, September 18, 2008

Layoffs Travel From Wall Street To Main Street

According to a recently released Business Roundtable survey, nearly one-third of the country's top executives expect to cut payrolls in the coming months as companies cope with a weakened economy dogged by housing, credit and financial problems stemming from Wall Street’s risk-laden mortgage lending practices.

This survey was taken before the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman, Merrill, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual and other Wall Street upheavals that wreaked havoc around the globe this week.

A TV financial commentator nailed it by saying, “It’s like we’ve had food poisoning for a year and now we’re throwing up.”

Forewarned is forearmed

The financial sector meltdown will soon spread to layoffs in almost every industry.

HP just announced close to 25,000 upcoming layoffs spread over the next three years. Dell declared it would reduce headcount by 10%. And more are coming. I’ve already heard from world-class firms that anticipate large-scale staff cuts before year-end.

Those numbers will only add to the five-year unemployment high of 6.1 percent in August that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported … making this year’s layoffs 33% higher than last year.

Ignorance is not bliss

In spite of these realities, far too many executives are ignoring the warning signs and remain unprepared to deal with a sudden job loss.

I gave a seminar to a group of IT leaders last week who were paying little or no attention to personal career management. The pressures at work had intensified for many and whatever little time they had for themselves were spent recreationally. That’s understandable and, of course, gives them valuable work/life balance.

However, the seismic disruption of the financial markets just put all their jobs in jeopardy. And I’ve spent the better part of this week fielding their calls for help.

For the past three decades, I’ve advised thousands of executives to continually monitor and manage their careers. In today’s job climate, those who did are at an advantage … they’re prepared and have the skills to easily secure another position.

Unfortunately, there are many who are unprepared … and that's as risk-laden as Lehman’s balance sheet.

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