Hindsight is 20/20: What to do Before Getting Laid Off

Posted by Amanda on November 10, 2015

I am not suggesting that you will be getting laid off anytime soon. And it is very possible that you will (hopefully) never be laid off in the span of your career. But it does happen; I am living proof. In just the last eight years of my career I have managed to be laid off not once, but twice.

Since I have gone through the experience on two different occasions, I thought it would be helpful to show the steps you can take before getting (potentially) laid off in order to ensure that any layoff is as bearable as possible.

Try to Locate Somewhere with Job Potential

It became painfully obvious to me how important it is that, if you are going to move, then you should locate to a place where there is more than one option for employment. My first job out of college was at a start-up company in the town where I went to college. I had interned for them, and it was a natural fit for me to stay in the college town. The only problem was that after I lost my job, there really were no other job prospects. Sure, I could have worked at a restaurant, a bar, or a hotel, but that wasn’t where I saw myself. So I had to move.

Interestingly enough, I moved to the first location of where I was being offered a job: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It was a great marketing and market research company that I worked for, but there were not many other places within an hour’s drive where I could find a job should I be laid off. And we all know how that ended up less than two years later…

The point is, you do not know that you will be at a job for a significant amount of time. Moving your entire life is a big deal, so make sure that there are at least a few other prospects before jumping at an offer.

Ramp Up that Emergency Fund

I was very fortunate to have a long term perspective with my finances. As such, I had an emergency fund built-up so that each time I was laid off I had a savings account stocked with enough funds to ride the storm. This was instrumental in not only surviving, but also in being able to make appropriate choices for me instead of having to jump at the first job offer I received (though as I mentioned above, I jumped anyway). Having an emergency fund bought me not only groceries, but also time and confidence.

Keep Your Financial Obligations Low

Especially in the beginning of your career when you are not established and are the first likely candidate to be laid off in the event that your employer goes through bad financial times, you need to keep your financial obligations in ratio to your paycheck as low as possible. It may be tempting to go for a nice apartment with $200 extra in rent, buy/lease a new car with a $400 monthly payment, get that pet you’ve always wanted, etc. And you can pay for all of these things each month as well as your student loans…so long as you are not laid-off.

Unemployment checks — if you apply — are much lower than your normal paycheck. The idea is to be able to live off of them instead of dipping into any savings (and keeping your obligations low is especially important if you did not heed the advice above). Before purchasing furniture you will have to make payments on for the next several years or making other purchases with monthly financial obligations beyond the initial date you bring it home, give some thought to how your decisions could impact you if you were to be laid off.

Update Your Resume Every Six Months

It is so much easier to remember all of those great things that you do and accomplish while you are still in your position at your employer. Not only should you update your resume each time before purposefully leaving a job/seeking other employment, but update it every six months in case the unthinkable happens. You will thank yourself when you have an almost-ready resume in hand instead of having to craft one when your negative emotions may be riding high.

Come Up with a Worst Case Scenario Plan

One of the best things that you can do to prepare yourself for any financial catastrophe (and make the possibility potentially less scary) is coming up with a worst case scenario plan. What would your finances look like if you were to be laid off? How could you trim your expenses just one week after being laid off, and what obligations could you not trim off of your bill?

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