Getting Ready For A Job Loss

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It’s been my experience, that most employees are at the mercy of time. An employer can fire anyone, at anytime, because it’s business and not personal. Living paycheck to paycheck with a lot of bills makes it hard to lose a job so it’s important to be financially ready.

Of all the jobs I’ve had, I’ve been laid off once. It was a startup where my main duties were supply chain related. A few months into my experience with them, there was a constant vibe of uncertainty. Management started shifting away projects at the first sign of an obstacle and there was no sign of perceived progress. The environment just felt dense and I felt it was only a matter of time before they’d let me go. The inevitable happened one morning as soon as I walked in. One of the owners sat me down and told me things weren't working out. I thanked him, packed my belongings and said a quick goodbye to my office mates.

A few years go by, and I found myself in a similar position. I had been at my current 9-5 job for about a year and half when we all got a notification that the company was going to lower headcount. The year long objective was to get the organization more nimble, so from an efficiency standpoint, it made sense. Being a newer employee at the associate level, I realized I could be on the short list. It reminded me of the job I was laid off from years ago and that made me uncomfortable. The uncertainty of not being able to to cover bills weighed on me because that’s what happens when living paycheck to paycheck. After digesting the news and thinking ahead, I chose to focus what I could and decided to keep a positive mindset, and build up as much cash as possible.

A positive mindset is crucial because without it, the limbo period of “Will they let me go, or won’t they” can feel much longer than it actually is. Being negative in the workplace not only paints a target, but also makes for a bad work environment. During this time, I volunteered to be part of more projects and made it a point to complete tasks in a timely manner. Attempting to bring up my own morale was a way to keep myself more engaged. After getting my mindset right, the next step was figuring out what was needed to come out ahead. Cash is a great leverage against risk and when nothing is certain. I only had $1000 in my emergency fund, but my regular monthly bills are about twice that. If I got fired, that wouldn’t be enough to carry me very far, so I made the decision to only pay necessary bills and keep as much cash as possible on hand. As the emergency fund grew, I began to worry less and less.  

Aside from mindset and cash needs, It’s always important to update a resume when workplace uncertainty comes up. In my experience, it takes about 3 to 6 months to get a new job, so starting to look early is a plus. I go through and update my resume every few months as I gain more experience on the job. This allows my resume to stay up to date in near real time. Having a part time job as a side hustle is something I’m a big fan and advocate of. The first time I was laid off, bounce house side hustle was paying me until I found the next job. Any extra income like this makes it a bit easier to navigate and gives options.

Fortunately, 3 months after the announcement of a potential job loss, I learned my position with the company was no longer in jeopardy. The learning lesson I took away was to always have a extra income coming in and to keep my monthly bills to as low as possible. If I didn’t have debt or didn’t have so many bills to pay, any workplace uncertainty wouldn’t register. No employee should have to completely rely on an employer and anytime they are ready to cut the employer-employee relationship, both parties need to be completely ready.  

As stressful as it can be trying to navigate a potential job loss, it shouldn’t be a panic inducer.  Always be ready because as an employee, it’s always just a matter of time.

How have you dealt with a potential job loss?