6 Warning Signs Your Job is in Danger

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Although tech employment remains strong, big firms such as Nokia, Microsoft, IBM and Twitter have recently slashed jobs; tech startups face financial headwinds that will only intensify if the economy sputters.

With that in mind, here are some ways to recognize the telltale signs of a layoff—and what you should do now to prepare for the future. Don’t get so absorbed with everyday issues that you overlook these clues that indicate potential problems down the road. Ideally, you’d like to have a three-month head start before you receive a pink slip. (Note: In some cases, employers are required to provide 60 days’ notice.) 

Wall Street Cues
If you work for a public company, declining stock prices, earnings shortfalls, and downgrades by analysts should sound an alarm bell. “They’re the canary in the coal mine,” said Darren Kimball, a former Wall Street securities analyst who is now CEO of outplacement firm The Five O’Clock Club.

Budget Cuts
Before they resort to layoffs, executives often try to course-correct by slashing expenses. Freezes on travel, software and system upgrades, and hiring indicate that things aren’t going well. Circle the wagons if management makes deeper, more severe cost cuts.

Management Turmoil
Management shake-ups, infighting, and dissention among directors often beget “strategic reorganizations” within the next few weeks or months.

“Plus, it’s hard to gain traction if your boss keeps changing,” noted Connie Brock, a career advisor with Silicon Valley networking organization ProMatch. Even if you have a stellar track record, you may end up viewed as “expendable” by a new boss who’s on a clean-up mission.

Cyclical Downswing
While the whole tech industry is known for rabid competition (and equally rapid obsolescence cycles), subsectors such as semiconductors and hardware are the most vulnerable to sudden shifts. A decline in customer activity and new orders, or sudden tightening of credit markets, may produce layoffs within 30 days in a cyclical company.

Outsourcing Clues
Even in organizations with healthy top and bottom lines, your job may be in jeopardy if management decides to move infrastructure to the cloud or replace tenured employees with lower-cost workers. Be on the lookout for meetings between management and outsourcing vendors and budget changes to foresee what’s ahead.

Action Steps

If you’re sure layoffs are around the corner, it’s time to get proactive:

Honestly Evaluate Your Situation
Is your fate sealed? If so, there’s no point in burning the midnight oil. Find the time to go on interviews, attend conferences and networking events. But if you think you may be able to avoid the cut list, keep your nose to the grindstone and make sure your boss knows what you’re up to.

“Somebody decides who will stay and who will go,” Kimball said. “Making yourself irreplaceable is the best way to keep your job, especially if you’re viewed as someone who can help revitalize the company.”

Asking your boss if your job is at risk usually isn’t a good idea, Kimball warned. Because managers usually aren’t allowed to discuss personnel shifts, tipping your hand may accelerate the layoff process.

Launch Strategic Maneuvers
Being a “first mover” gives you the opportunity to transfer to a less-vulnerable position on a high-impact project or customer-facing role. Don’t underestimate the influence of colleagues and stakeholders on your job security: build your network internally by spending more time interfacing with co-workers and line managers over coffee or lunch, especially if you work remotely or haven’t built a circle of influence.

Prepare to Disembark
Start updating your online profiles and résumé right away, but adjust your settings so your network isn’t notified until you’re ready to hit the market.

Carve out time for networking, and start assembling a team of informal advisors to help you with your job search. Endorse your colleagues online to encourage them to reciprocate.

Use comp time or sick time to attend a bootcamp or complete a career-enhancing online course. You can also consult a career counselor and former managers and colleagues to develop a strategic plan for the next step in your career.

“Re-connect with former managers and colleagues to see what life is like after you leave the company,” Brock said. “They can be your sounding board and help you set goals and prepare for what lies ahead.”

12 Responses to “6 Warning Signs Your Job is in Danger”

  1. Don’t forget to take care of yourself at the end of the day if you decide to bail, Medical physical, update your reading eye glasses if you need them and consult your tax/ investment guy for best options.

  2. If the company has a history of layoffs take immediate action. Tighten you belt. Put off big expenditures. Make extra payments to get the mortgage paid off. Realize that older employees are especially vulnerable to layoffs or bad treatment that would give them no choice but to retire. When you house and cars are paid off you will breathe easier come what may.

  3. Here’s a sure kiss-of-death indicator: When management cancels the free coffee service. When cost cutting reaches this point you can be sure the end is near…….

  4. Alan Knight

    When you see the warning signs:
    If male: arrange a “work-related” injury. “Falls” on staircases are good, but make sure that there are no witnesses or CCTV.
    If female: become pregnant. Firing pregnant women looks bad, so HR departments are scared of doing it. Plus, you get a year of maternity leave.

  5. all is fair in the employment world. if you are holding your end of the bargain, but you feel like your employer is going to pull the rug out from under you. Go ahead and take necessary counter measures. ie injury.

  6. You people saying fake an injury are idiots.
    First of all, insurance companies will catch you, prosecute you, and you will wish you never made that decision. 2nd, it’s pathetic. Your company or employer, or the world, owe you nothing, zero. Grab a clue

  7. Ira Radnick

    In 1991 I felt the computer company I worked as a Marketing Manager at was about to take a turn for the worse after a smaller firm acquired our firm. The new owner was woefully under-capitalized, and I knew had not performed their due diligence adequately. So, before things began to get choppy I purchased private life insurance and private disability insurance as opposed to facing the prospect of taking over premium payments for marginal insurance products. Best move I made by a long shot. I was provided a strong severance package when the inevitable happened, and was called in for special projects as an outside consultant, for which I billed $135/hour. I began to provide consulting and systems development in an arena my former employer had opted to not pursue. I was able to make a decent living being self-employed as I watched my former employer get swallowed up for minimal asset value just before they were about to file for bankruptcy. 20 years later I became disabled, and after a three year legal fight the insurance company finally paid off, saving me from financial destruction. So, yeah, get life and disability insurance on your own before you are left out in the cold when you get the boot.

  8. Fake injury ? Really? I have been working for 33 yrs for same employer. I see the younger generation come and go. Poor work ethics and worse attitude. People with your attitude don’t help. That kind of behavior is one of the problems with society and why businesses big and small are having troubles. Hope you have a nice retirement

  9. Jimmi

    When I reached 62, and had six weeks of vacation by senority and had over 2000 hours of sick leave, I suddenly couldn’t do anything right, if I spoke I was “rude,” if I didn’t speak I was “rude.”
    A total of 130 people who reached 62 could do nothing right, and were suddenly very rude.
    Companies that operate in this manner deserve to have “arranged” injuries. Poor ethics from management is rampant,