How To Prepare Yourself During Company Layoffs

Simone Becchetti / Stocksy

Simone Becchetti / Stocksy

By: Brittney Oliver

My deskmate was called to the conference room around the last couple of minutes of the workday. She came back to our desk shaken and in tears revealing to the rest of the department that she was let go from her job. The next day more and more employees were let go and I sat there with my stomach in knots every time the COO came to the door. Would he be calling my name next? Just days prior a memo went out to all employee inboxes detailing the downsizing of certain departments and detailing the company’s performance. Panic spread across the company as people began to gather around desks, restrooms and eating areas whispering about the fate of their company and fate of their jobs.  

All year around people are laid off from their jobs. Whether it's a round of company layoffs or just an individual incident of job termination, many of us will experience this fate at one point in our lives. In 2014, one in five U.S. workers was laid off in the past five years and about 22% of those who lost their jobs still haven't found another one, according to a survey conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. In 2016 job cuts are at an all time high since 2009, but with companies downsizing and finding ways to save money, employees have to start wising up and preparing for situations of termination to arise. Most of the time it won’t be your fault and no matter how good you are the company has to cut cost at every corner. Here are four ways you can prepare yourself during layoffs:

Never Get Comfortable

They are always watching and that’s one thing people forget as they accumulate years in their job position. The years you occupy a certain position doesn’t determine loyalty, therefore, you should never get comfortable in your position. Stay on your toes! Always conduct yourself in business decorum, stay honest and complete processes using the mandated policies. Once you slack off of your A game, you become vulnerable to being fired or being placed in the top tier for company-wide layoffs. Sometimes being let go won’t be personal, but putting in a little extra work won’t hurt. Brush up on your skills, find ways to improve efficiencies, and add value by bringing in new business, contributing to revenue or saving the company some dollars. Make sure the people in charge feel that you are irreplaceable. 

Keep a Documented Timeline of Events

When it gets down to the wire, people’s true colors come out. Like they say, not everyone is your friend. Employers and employees will lie on you so keep your receipts. Every time you are corrected at work or make a mistake, document the incident. Also keep track of things that you hear that would potentially affect your job. Keep documents on when people praised you for your contribution to the company as well. These documents can help you when proving your value. It can also help you if you get laid off and need to claim unemployment. Some companies will let you go and refuse to pay you unemployment or offer a fair severance package. When fighting to get the fair pay you deserve, having these documents will help in your case against your former employer.

Know How Your Industry is Trending

Keep a pulse on your industry and how it’s performing to stay ahead of some company layoffs. For example, retail workers have experienced many layoffs based on the change in how consumers purchase goods. Many storefronts are closing as people move to online shopping. The energy and computer industry are also experiencing an increase in layoffs. According to CNBC,  in the computer industry, recently 12,000 layoffs wereannounced by Intel which accounted for the lion's share of the sector's roughly 17,000 payroll reductions.” Understanding what’s happening in your industry will help you plan for your next step. If your industry is getting hit hard by the economy changes, then you can start working on plan B. You can return to school or gain certification to move into a new industry. It could also be your chance to work on your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Find a Side Hustle

If the talk of layoffs is looming, then it’s time to build up your bank account. The best way to do that is with a side hustle. Find ways to monetize your skill set outside of work to help bring extra income your way. Become an Uber driver or marketer, start babysitting, launch your catering business or even your consulting practice after work hours. Starting your side hustle before the layoff will allow you to have a steady flow of change come your way so that if you are let go you won’t be totally out of luck. You may even be able to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig once you are terminated from your employment.  

Keep Your Relationships Fresh

Are you regularly keeping in touch with your mentors and peers? When is the last time you wrote an alumni or had coffee with another industry professional? Relationships are key to matriculate through your career journey and they will prove to be vital during this time of uncertainty. Make sure you refresh your relationships and connections with mentors and other industry professionals. Let them know what’s going on and ask them to keep their ears and eyes open for opportunities at other companies. This support system will help you pick yourself up if you become unemployed. They may be the very people to help you secure your next role.


Brittney is a freelance writer and marketing communications professional based in New York City. She has written for ESSENCE, Huffington Post, xoNecole, Levo.com and other online publications. This Tennessee native is a proud Howard University alumna. She is using her career journey to inspire and motivate others through her Lemons 2 Lemonade platform. Follow her on Twitter @Britt_S_O and visit www.brittneyoliver.com to see what she's working on!