Don't think it can't happen to you. The collapse of Lehman Brothers provides a sharp reminder that nobody is immune from being laid off, downsized or restructured. It doesn't matter what it's called - it's all the same sting if you are on the receiving end of the pink slip. So here are 10 smart ways you can get ahead of this corporate curve ball.
Today, downsizing is an accepted, pre-emptive business strategy - even for healthy companies. It's no longer just a means of cutting the fat.
Companies restructure to re-deploy resources, take advantage of technology gains, position themselves for future growth, and to respond to demanding and sudden shifts in the marketplace.
To the extent such restructuring fosters increased productivity and robust global competition, it offers a kind of "greater good" rationale, not ideal from an individual perspective, but surely its own kind of perfection on the broader scale.
Layoffs have been commonplace since the late 1980's, starting with the telecommunications and auto industries. According to Plunkett Research, Ltd., Houston TX, during the first three quarters of 2002, over one million jobs were cut in the United States.
During 2001, the economic slide combined with the September 11th attacks led to more massive layoffs totalling nearly 2.5 million jobs. Nearly every sector has been hit, and there is no end in site as corporate mergers and restructuring continue unabated.
Each of us knows someone who has felt the corporate axe - a friend, an uncle, father, mother or sister. Given the ubiquity of downsizing, it pays to be prepared.
1. Don't think it can't happen to you. No company is immune, and fully 2/3 of companies who downsize in a given year do so the next year, too.
2. Know your rights. Read and understand your company severance documents thoroughly, or team up with someone who can explain them to you. Be especially informed about age, race and gender issues.
3. Sort out what you'd like to do next. Work for another company? Start a business? Change careers? This 'critical path' decision will drive very different activities – the sooner made, the better.
4. Clarify your talent bank. Clearly identify your unique skills, experience, and inner resources. Be able to crisply articulate these to friends, colleagues and potential employers.
5. Shape up your resume. This is a make-or-break document. Make sure it's great -- even consider having it professionally written. Have different versions tailored by industry or type of firm.
6. Do your homework. What companies would you like to work for? Make a list of 20 or 30 companies and find out everything you can about them. Ask friends, use the Web. Check out specific job postings to see if they are hiring your skill set. Determine the appropriate contact person.
7. Network actively. Finding new employment is both science and art. The science part is a game of odds – the more contacts you make the better your chances of uncovering opportunities. The art is never knowing where and when an opportunity will arise – so be ready all the time.
8. Develop a realistic budget and stick to it. Decide what's essential, do without the extras, pay down consumer debt and build financial reserves to help see you through lean months.
9. Practice extreme self-care. Maintain excellent physical, mental and emotional shape. The best YOU is bold, spirited and confident. Do something that you love to do at least once per week.
10. Don't panic. Fear keeps you stuck and diminishes your ability to make solid, reasoned decisions. Who knows? Maybe downsizing is the perfect catalyst for a positive life change.
We first published this piece in 2006. But it is even more relevant now than it was then.