If you’re involved in the tech industry, you’ve probably noted how the official tech-industry unemployment rate is low—it hit 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A handful of specialized technology segments, including Web developers and computer systems analysts, also saw their respective unemployment rates noticeably decline year-over-year.
But even during the good times, layoffs can still rip through tech firms. For example, despite strong earnings and buzz around its current initiatives, Microsoft recently announced that it would let go thousands of employees, mostly in sales. It behooves tech pros everywhere to prepare (as much as one can) for the unexpected.
Fortunately, tech firms often exhibit certain signs before initiating layoffs. Here are five prominent ones:
- Inability to secure more funding
- Steep declines in corporate revenues
- Management shake-ups and infighting
- Cyclical downsizing
- Outsourcing announcements
Whether or not these signs are present in your own organization, here are some steps you can take to prep:
Update on a Schedule
Let’s admit it: it’s a real pain to update your résumé and supporting materials. Even if your daily schedule isn’t crammed tight with activities and meetings, the idea of sitting down and writing about your experiences and skills is about as appealing as a root canal.
But scheduling a regular time to update your résumé (say, once a quarter, or even once every six months, depending on how often you’re promoted or switch positions) can help in a number of ways. For starters, it allows you to list your experiences while they’re still relatively fresh in your mind. If you wait years between updates, you risk forgetting key metrics and accomplishments that can really help distinguish you.
And it’s not just about updating your résumé: make sure to keep your contacts up-to-date. Schedule the time to attend conferences and meet-ups; keep in some degree of communication with former managers and colleagues at other firms. In the latter case, that might mean taking a former boss out to lunch, or starting an email conversation with a former colleague who now works at an interesting firm.
By taking these steps, you’re on somewhat more confident footing if you notice any of the above signs of imminent layoffs. When talking to your network, though, don’t mention that you’re desperate for a new job, or afraid that your current company is (metaphorically) on fire; instead, revitalize the relationship by catching up, finding common ground, and talking more generally about careers.
Strengthen That Internal Network
If layoffs are in the air, it can only benefit you to strengthen your internal network: as brutal as this might sound, it’s the loner animals that are cut off from the herd. That makes interacting often with employees from other divisions, and spending as much face-time as possible with your supervisor, a must. If you have the opportunity to brief other managers, make sure they’re aware of your team and its accomplishments; and if those managers run interesting projects that seem more layoff-proof, it might be worth exploring a transfer.
Taking these kinds of steps will raise your profile in the company, which could boost your job security in the midst of layoffs.
Don’t Announce Your Plans
If you sense layoffs, don’t announce to your colleagues that you’re eager to land another job. It pays to be discreet, especially when networking or job interviewing.
When updating your online profiles, make sure to do so very gradually; or adjust your settings to prevent your network from seeing your changes until you’re actually in a new position or out on the job market.
If You’re Laid Off
If you’ve ever been laid off, you know it’s an emotional moment—no matter how much you might have prepared ahead of time. When you do sit down with your soon-to-be-former employer, though, it’s important to cover the following things:
- What (if any) outplacement services are available?
- How long does your health insurance stay in force?
- What payout can you expect from bonuses and unused PTO?
- When will any outstanding expenses be paid?
- Can you consult with your former firm?
And when you do actually leave the office, make sure to take the following:
- Letters of recommendation
- Performance reviews
- Any documentation that could help with your job search
In terms of immediate steps you can take, reaching out to your extended network for job leads or assistance is a good one. You may also want to apply for unemployment benefits. Establishing some post-layoff goals—such as sending out X number of résumés per week—is an excellent way to retake control and steer through the emotional turmoil that often comes at a time like this.