You notice the office coffee maker only brews generic beans these days. Top executives are suddenly flying coach. And now those headlines about mass layoffs at U.S. companies are making you feel insecure about your own job. Simply put, stuff just feels different since the 2008 recession, and workers don’t want to find themselves unprepared if the economy — or their industry — suddenly heads south.
Before you fall into a cycle of grief or impulsively jump ship, take a deep breath and use this period of uncertainty to position yourself for your whatever happens next.
Run a stress test of your finances. Take stock of your monthly expenses and do the math to see what happens if your income suddenly falls to just your unemployment insurance. Start taking steps to build savings and set a budget that will give you the wiggle room you need in the event of a layoff or temporary reduction in pay. Simply having a contingency plan can give you the emotional freedom you need to calm anxiety about losing your job.
Seek training for skills you think might give you a leg up in a job search. This is particularly important advice if you work in an occupation or industry vulnerable to downturns. If a lot of people with similar skill sets flood the job market at once, you’ll want something to help you stand out. Many companies offer training to help retain ambitious employees and develop them professionally. If your employer offers any kind of training or skills courses, upskill while you have access.
Think about what you want. Have you been itching for a change? Use this time to explore whether that second career you’ve been considering is viable to pursue. What courses might you need to take? What savings will you need? What volunteer or apprentice experience can you get now that will inform your decisions about whether a move is right for you?
Contact former colleagues and others in your network. It pays to maintain your networks before you need them. But if you’re facing a layoff, you should tell people in your network you’re interested in exploring opportunities. Use this time to renew friendships and get advice from mentors. These conversations can help you sniff out potential openings and ensure that you’re kept top of mind when opportunities — and competing applicants — surface. Perhaps equally important, keeping up your connections can help you stay levelheaded during an emotionally taxing period.
Update your resume and online professional profiles. You know you should do this, even if you’ve been putting it off. It’s easy to get stuck when you’re trying to condense your entire career into a few succinct bullet points. So, seek feedback from a colleague or reach out to professional recruiter you have either worked with in the past or are currently working with on a new job opportunity. Their external perspective on your existing resume will help you craft something that stands out. They can ask probing questions to help you rethink the messages you’re sending about your experience and qualifications, and offer an informed understanding of the positions you’re especially well-suited for.
The worst things you can do during a time of workplace uncertainty are to bury your head in the sand or to give up at work. Maintaining your mental health and identifying viable future opportunities depend on staying clear-eyed and well-prepared. With a focus on reinforcing your value, you might just find yourself among the lucky employees that a company keeps, even in hard times.