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Are You Next?

How to know if you’re headed for the unemployment line

Are You NextIn today’s uncertain economy, many people are concerned about their jobs. They wonder about their company’s future. And if layoffs do come, they wonder who will be the first to go.

While there’s no way to predict the future, there are signs you can watch for, according to Layoffs and Job Security, a survey by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).

Before you hit the panic button, consider what’s happening at your office. Are people being replaced as they leave or are their jobs left open? Has the company instituted a hiring freeze? According to the human resources professionals polled, the top four precursors to layoffs are:

  • Downsizing by not replacing employees (63%)
  • Instituting an employment freeze (49%)
  • Not renewing contract workers (21%)
  • Encouraging employees to use vacation time (20%)

Other signs that a company is cutting back include: transferring employees to other locations, not allowing overtime and making salary cuts.

While organizations layoff employees for a variety of reasons, most are the result of several contributing factors. According to the survey, the top three causes are: a decline in profits; company reorganization or restructure; and poor national economic conditions.

The good news is that the majority of employers make an effort to take care of their own. Forty-five percent of those surveyed report filling positions in other departments with laid-off employees. Another 17 percent hired laid-off employees as consultants.

Who goes?

In the old days, layoffs were based largely on seniority or tenure. The last person hired was the first go. However, that principle doesn’t hold true today.

Job performance is the most important factor, according to Layoffs and Job Security. Sixty-two percent of HR professionals polled indicate that the most important criterion for deciding which employees will be laid-off is job performance. According to the survey, the top five determining factors are:

  • Job Performance (62%)
  • Job Category (47%)
  • Employee’s Skills (41%)
  • Seniority/Tenure (40%)
  • Type of employee (i.e. part-time, temporary) (37%)

On a positive note, most survey respondents (80 percent) say that laid-off employees are offered some type of assistance. Seventy-four percent report that their companies offer severance pay. Fifty-four percent offer an extension of health-care benefits. Only eight percent indicated that their organization provided no assistance to employees who are laid-off.

What you can do

The most effective way to protect yourself in today’s economy is to take control of your career. Forget about letting the company take care of you. You need to take care of yourself.

First, since job performance seems to be the most important factor in determining layoffs, make sure that you are the best person for the job. Are you still enthusiastic or do you drag yourself into the office every morning? When was the last time you learned a new skill? Take some time to consider just how valuable you are to the company.

Next, network, network, network. Whatever you’re doing, you can do it better with “a little help from your friends.” Take the time to keep in touch with previous employers and colleagues. Resolve to make developing new relationships a priority.

Finally, be sure to keep your resume ready to circulate. Have you listed your current position? Does your resume showcase your abilities? If you haven’t looked at your resume since your last job search it’s time for an update.

In these uncertain times, it’s easy to feel like you’re traveling on the Titanic. One of the best ways to ensure your survival is to take charge of your career by being proactive, rather than reactive. While you can’t predict the future, being prepared for anything will help you stay afloat.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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