Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thriving through Lay-Offs

As lay-offs continue to roll across corporate America, many of us may soon find ourselves bidding goodbye to some of our colleagues who are laid-off. Many folks who survive a round of lay-offs find themselves suffering from survivor's guilt or becoming demoralized or disillusioned by their company. Those are exactly the wrong reactions. Although a round of lay-offs is tough for everyone, there are some things you can do to improve the situation and there are even some silver linings:

Take on More Responsibility - layoffs in your company can be an opportunity for major career advancement. Think about it: there is more work for fewer people. There are bound to be orphaned projects, programs and areas of responsibility, and guess what? Your boss would be delighted if you offered to take over some of them. Find a project that takes you in the career direction you are trying to go and make a bid for it. Moreover, remember that the more responsibility you have and the better your performance, the more likely you are to keep your job through future rounds of lay-offs (if there are any).

Stay in Touch with Former Colleagues - believe it or not, layoffs in your company mean a major boost to your professional network. Knowing people in your own company is good. Knowing people in other organizations in your industry is excellent, and there is a good chance that many of the colleagues that just left your firm will find new places of employment within your industry. If you stay in touch with your former colleagues your network will become much more powerful. Remember, your colleagues are your assets.

Help Out - losing one's job, whether expected or not, is a traumatic event, but you are in a position to help your former colleagues land their next jobs. Be proactive in offering contacts to headhunters, potential job leads and other resources that your former colleagues may find useful. Giving folks a call every week or two to find out how they are doing is also not a bad idea. One thing that I like to do for former colleagues is to write a recommendation for them on LinkedIn. Of course, I only provide a recommendation if I mean it, but such recommendations can both improve the mood of the recently laid-off and help them to find their new position.

Be a Cheer Leader - lay-offs are serious morale killers, and while you may be tempted to come to the office and hide in your cube, now is a great time to step up and take a leadership position. Don't participate in downer water cooler conversations, be optimistic and be vocal about it. Optimism is infectious and greatly improves results. Moreover, even though you may not realize it, lay-offs are extremely tough on management as well. Management will notice and appreciate your cheer leading. Hell, being optimistic really improves your day, give it a shot.

Pat Yourself on the Back - it is very much OK to stop for a minute, breathe a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the shoulder for keeping your job. Somebody in management knows you are doing a fine job. Somebody there has probably put up a fight for you when the decisions were being made. You are doing something right. Good job.

Don't Take Anything for Granted - it is not unusual for companies to go through multiple rounds of lay-offs, and even if you don't think that another round is coming, being prepared for losing your job is always a good idea.

The good days will come again, but until then hang in there and continue to do your best.

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