The Single Best Way to Survive a Layoff

Don't lose touch with your network.

The Single Best Way to Survive a Layoff

Don't lose touch with your network.

When Eric K. was downsized from his six-figure job as a corporate vice president, he took a year off, living off a severance package and teaching guitar lessons on the weekend. He also called on a former colleague who had moved on to head a department in a similar company. He did some consulting work with his contact and eventually landed a full-time job—at a fraction of his past salary. But he also got a fraction of the stress. “I used to wake up worrying about everything,” he says. “Now I have the greatest job, and I never want to go back to management.”

One of Eric’s smartest moves is the most important thing you can do: Keep your networks running smoothly. As soon as you can, download or copy your Rolodex and e-mail address book from work. Many companies don’t let you return to your desk after serving notice, and those contacts will be vital in finding a new job, says author and career consultant Nancy Collamer.

Then schedule lunches with clients, vendors, or colleagues from other companies once every 2 weeks. “It’s easier to meet when you’re employed, when you don’t have to talk about the job hunt,” she says. “Then in 3 months, when you do get laid off, it’s a more comfortable situation.”

To avoid having to hunt for another job in the first place, make yourself invaluable now, suggests Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. “Do 25 percent more work, based on your strengths,” he says. Pick the part of your job you like—mentoring, crunching numbers, doing long-term planning, attracting new clients—and crank it up a notch. “There’s a tendency to do just enough to get by, but the people who do more keep their jobs,” Leider says. “All of a sudden, they’re attracting positive attention rather than resenting their jobs.”

Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D., coauthor of the Resonant Leadership, also suggests trying to be more of a cross-trainer at work, especially if your job is very specialized, so that you can adapt as the company changes or dissolves.

During one of his studies, Boyatzis followed a group of contractors in Arkansas who didn’t limit themselves to one particular trade. They weren’t simply electricians or plumbers or carpenters. They were all three—they did everything. The advantage, they told Boyatzis, was that their jobs were more interesting, plus they could adapt to different needs as the market changed. And for more great career advice, know the 5 ways billionaires think differently than you and me. 

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