Layoffs... What can you do?

This is the 4th time I’ve been thru layoffs.  The first layoff was a complete surprise but the next two had tell tale signs that they were coming.  I’ve realized that the biggest sign of impending change is a major slowdown in workload.  I remember going to my bosses at the last 2 companies and asking for work and their responses were to go find a technology I’m interested in and learn about it.  I thought initially “Hey, That’s Cool”.  But when you go back a week or so later and the response is the same, you start to wonder “Now how is this really helping the company”.  I’d suggest documenting everything during this down time.  Your boss is much more likely to give you a good recommendation if he doesn’t have to open up the code to figure out what the heck the code is doing and where it’s been deployed.

I’ve learned several things after going through these layoffs. One thing is that you should always keep your resume up to date.  It doesn’t take much time to run through it once a year and update it.  It’s also good to just review what you’ve done each year.  I have a hard time remembering what I did 6 months ago much less 6 years ago.  Keep that resume up to date.

Another good thing to do is to be nice to recruiters that reach out to you.  Things can change quickly in the technology industry so you always want to have someone to reach out to when bad things happen.  It only takes a minute or two to respond to an email that you aren’t currently looking but that you appreciate them searching you out.  They’ll remember that when you start looking.

Another thing that I’ve started doing the last 2 years is attending Meetup groups.  This is a great opportunity to network and keep up to date with technologies you are interested in.  Several of the groups I attend even open their meetings by asking whose looking for work and whose hiring.  Meetups are also a great opportunity to work on your presentation skills.  

The final thing I recommend is to learn something new every month(if not every day).  If you are a .Net developer during the day, learn Go.  If you are a Java developer during the day, learn Python.  If you write tons of SQL in a relational database during the day, learn how to do map reduce in Hadoop.  Do something you don’t do at work.  It will make you well rounded and will provide you with a different point of reference not to mention that you might find a way to do something much better.

Now on to the task of dealing with the knowledge that layoffs are coming.  This is tough.  It’s kind of like pulling the bandaid off slowly.  Do you wait to see how things pan out or do you look for work and leave before the layoffs occurs?  If you leave early, you could possibly miss out on a severance or possibly an opportunity to move in to a higher position that may have been vacated.  Of course if you don’t leave, the market could be flooded with individuals and it could be tougher to get a job if you are let go.  I guess it comes down to a personal decision but you really need to weigh how much you like working at the company.  You also need to think about things like 401k matching, insurance costs, and flexibility of work schedule.  You also need to take a step back and look at the company objectively.  Is the company going to be around in 10 years?  Is the company going to continue to be a player in the market that it’s in?  

The best you can really do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best and live every day like it’s your last.