Being laid off can be a traumatic experience. You can’t prevent it, but you may be able to predict a layoff with some careful observation. Whether or not your prediction is correct, one thing to remember is that being let go is just part of the world of work. Author Lita Epstein said it’s important to accept this sobering fact. “We all need to accept the fact that being laid off is just part of the lifestyle in the United States. Most people will be laid off at least once in their lifetime and many will be laid off multiple times,” said Epstein in Surviving a Layoff: A Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Your Life Back Together.
Having a good idea of when your time is up can help you prepare for the future. While some may say that getting laid off and getting fired are the same, there are some subtle differences. Here are a few signs you won’t be at your current job very long.
1. There have been layoff rumors
Most of the time, layoff rumors are true. Even if your boss says your job is safe, pay attention to potential signs that it will be time to clear out your desk. Actions usually speak a lot louder than words when it comes to layoffs. Lack of eye contact, whispers from co-workers that cease when you’re nearby, or any unusual behavior should be taken into account.
2. The company has undergone a major reorganization or buyout
If your company has been reorganized or taken over by another company, this should be cause for concern. When it comes to a company buyout, chances are the new mangers will replace you with their employees. “While the word is always that staff will be minimally affected, you should always expect layoffs to result from this type of activity,” said Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers.
3. You get demoted or transferred
Were you asked to take on a new role that has significantly less responsibility than your current role? A demotion is never a good sign. If you find that you have an abundance of free time during the work day, it just might be time to start dusting off your resume. Idle time is never a good thing when it comes to work.
4. An important project was put on hold
Were you working on major project, but you were pulled off the team at the last minute? This could be an indication you’re about to be chopped off the organizational chart. When high-profile projects come to a halt or you’re asked to stop working with the team, you may want to start looking for a new job. “In prosperous times, businesses are awash in initiatives for growth. In leaner times, they hunker down and return to basics by focusing on what is guaranteed to bring in revenue now, rather than looking to the future,” said Monster contributor Larry Buhl.
5. Human resources has been having closed-door meetings with your boss
While this may not be a sign by itself, if you’ve noticed many of the other signs in addition to this one, it’s a pretty good indication that something isn’t right. If you notice that the human resource managers and your boss have trouble making eye contact with you after that meeting, you may have your answer. Your days inside that cozy little cubicle of yours could be numbered.
6. You just know
Sometimes you just know. Your gut is likely telling you that you’re next. Instead of ignoring that inner voice, make some plans now to prepare for your future. Don’t assume that everything will just work itself out. Lack of planning will come back to bite you. One of the first things you need to do is make sure your emergency savings fund is healthy. If it isn’t, do what you can to stash away as much cash as you can while you’re still receiving regular paychecks. Also, take time to go over your resume, and update it to reflect your most recent accomplishments.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to help protect yourself from long-term unemployment.
What you can do
When faced with the possibility of a layoff, there are a few things you can do to help you brace for the impact.
Beef up your skills
If you like where you work and would like to stay for a while, your best bet is to work on improving your skills way before the layoff rumors start flying. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re doing your part to be a good team player.
Do your best to avoid making enemies and lend a helping hand whenever you can. Linda Rolie, author of Getting Back to Work: Everything You Need to Bounce Back and Get a Job After a Layoff, said sometimes a layoff comes down to personality fit. “If it’s between two equally qualified employees, it comes down to who’s more likable and getting along with others or doing some of those extra chores, duties or technological components that others don’t want to do. Look for ways to strategically snatch up a couple of niches that you enjoy and are good at,” Rolie told Bankrate.
If you see the signs of a layoff coming your way, don’t sit back passively and wait for your pink slip to be handed to you. One thing you may want to consider asking about is if you can continue to remain an employee on a consulting basis.
Tap your network
Carve out some time to reach out to those in your network who may be able to help you find a new job. Request a lunch or coffee date so that you can catch up and explore new work opportunities. You never know where your next lead will come from.