Career Advice: Am I About To Be Laid Off?

If you recognize a few of the signs of a pending layoff, you might have time to save your job or find a new one.

Layoffs have become an integral part of the landscape of corporate America these days; it's more surprising to not hear about a new round than to read the announcements. In some cases, companies inform their employees in advance that layoffs are imminent. In other cases, it comes without warning.

In either case, you might be able to read the writing on the wall if your company is planning layoffs. Often, companies start showing signs that they are trying to avoid them, or even worse, preparing for the inevitable. If you think about it, you might know as much or more than some of the employees on the top floor. For example, if you work in a sales department, you might realize that quotas are way below the norm. If you work as a service technician, you might notice you are logging far fewer customer calls.

Other signs of potential layoffs include attrition without hiring replacements or hiring freezes, reduction in support staff and termination of temporary employees and contractors. Personnel is usually one of the first areas to experience cuts when layoffs are looming.

The second area that is a tell-tale sign is financial cutbacks. Budget cuts, expense reductions, earnings and spending warnings and travel cutbacks usually feel the effects of revenue shortfalls. Companies usually curtail spending when the earnings fall short of expectations. That may also mean the cancellation of scheduled projects.

It should come as no surprise that these shortfalls could also trigger management resignations or restructuring. They are common practices for companies who are trying to find a way to right the ship. Rumors of expected layoffs always seem to appear in the media.

If your company's competitors, suppliers or customers are laying off employees, it's possible your company will too, especially if economic conditions are affecting your industry.

Do things like this always mean that layoffs are coming at your company? Of course not. Many companies have seasonal and economic dips, and are always looking for ways to improve the bottom line. So, if you see only one or two signs, it might not be a big deal. But if you see more, especially budget cuts, earning warnings, hiring freezes, layoffs and restructuring in your industry, it might just be time to get your resume up to date and start looking for a new job.

There are plenty of horror stories where companies have handled layoffs insensitively and selfishly. They have left employees in the dark until the last minute. The sad result was that employees lost large percentages of their final paychecks, lost all vacation benefits and did not receive any severance pay.

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to cancel your vacation, implement financial measures and become more useful on your job. That little extra effort might mean giving yourself some added job security.

To add insult to injury, you may be escorted off the premises shortly after you receive notice. If you think you might get the axe, discreetly prepare in advance. Don't let your employer or co-workers know that you are job hunting. If your employer gets word that you are preparing to lose your job, they might put you on the chopping block regardless of their initial intentions.

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