"I should have seen it coming" is a common lament from those who end up laid off as a result of corporate downsizings and restructurings.
There usually are ample warning signs a layoff is coming, and that you are likely to be among the victims. When faced with that inevitability, though, "a lot of people choose to shut their eyes to the obvious signals," says Susan Ascher, chief executive of the Ascher Group, a human resources staffing firm in Roseland. That can be a costly mistake.
No one is immune from layoffs. A recent survey of 126 U.S. employers conducted by Mercer Consulting found 33 percent are considering hiring freezes or downsizing. In our rapidly changing world, odds are, sooner or later, most people will find themselves, often through no fault of their own, out of work. So it makes sense to learn how to recognize the warning signs. That way, you will be able to take steps to increase your survival, or be better positioned to deal with losing your job.
Companies that show signs of financial stress often find it necessary to resort to layoffs. So, if your company is slow paying its bills, is discussing outsourcing of various functions, has discontinued products or lost key customers, is cutting budgets or is the subject of takeover rumors, there is a good chance of a layoff.
You can reduce your chances of being laid off by getting involved in activities that are critical to the company's future. Keep your skills current, present yourself as someone who goes above and beyond expectations. Whether you will be among the victims of a downsizing depends on many things, some of which are completely outside of your control.
Walter Sonyi, executive vice president of Gateway International Group, an outplacement firm in Parsippany, offers these key indicators as signs of a layoff:
If you think you are likely to be laid off, it is always best to be proactive. While it may already be too late to change the outcome, it can't hurt to try to demonstrate your value.
The best response, Ascher advises, is to "be visible, be valuable, be positive and be knowledgeable." Make sure your boss knows about your recent successes, increase your visibility on projects viewed as critical to the organization's future and be willing to volunteer to take on added responsibilities. When times are tough, a positive "can-do" attitude is always highly prized.
Do not, however, ignore the possibility that your fate may already have been sealed. Make a concerted effort to focus on career-sustaining activities you may have let slip due to the press of other responsibilities. They include:
It is never too soon to start preparing for the possibility that, this time, your number will be up.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is the author of "UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective -- The Art of Getting What You Want," and the co-founder of YourCareerDoctors.com, a website devoted to career success. Mail questions to Lee@YourCareerDoctors.com.