For most people, losing their job is the biggest threat posed by tough economic times. Should you be worried?
Before a corporate squall, there are usually warning signs. One of them is a spike in meetings. If private gatherings or quiet tête-à-têtes have grown more frequent at work, it’s likely change is brewing, according to Alan Kearns, head of Toronto-based consulting company Career Joy and author of Get the Right Job Right Now! “You should also look out for managers or leaders at the company acting cooler or under obvious stress.”
Kearns also suggests talking to the company’s salespeople, who are “usually upstream on what’s happening in the organization.” If they’re not hitting their numbers, it could be a sign that cost savings will have to come from somewhere else in the company. Lost contracts or failed bids can also precede cuts.
When fellow staffers are being shown the door, you might have to work harder, or it might be time to look beyond your own firm or even industry for opportunity, says Sari Friedman, a human-resources coach and consultant. “You might decide that ultimately you don’t want to slug it out in this industry doing two people’s jobs at once. There are other industries that are more financially secure and my skills are transferable.” If you were working in finance for a media company, perhaps a move to pharmaceuticals or resources would be beneficial.
Claude Balthazard, a vice-president at the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario, suggests looking for the industries that are growing. “For example, in Ontario you can go to the Job Futures website and it will tell you what the prospects are,” he says. “Health care, with the aging population, is a good place to be. Manufacturing, maybe less so.”
If you decide to stay put, Balthazard advises, “don’t be deadwood.” The easiest way to ensure your security is to be the best at what you do. “Both internally and externally, everyone has a reputation, and the best will be the last to go, and will land quickly in other roles if they find themselves laid off,” Kearns adds.
If the company conducts regular performance reviews, take a second look at those to make sure you’re approaching your objectives. Even if you’re not the company’s star employee, there are other ways to increase your odds of success. “One good way to build stickiness in an organization is by building relationships in different divisions of the company. People with deeper relationships are harder to let go,” he says.
Employees should also look for ways to add value to the company, either by increasing revenue or saving money. Through all this, Kearns notes, being a positive influence on the team can save hard-working people with average skills. “Having a resilient attitude and keeping the team upbeat and motivated is extremely valuable in times of flux and uncertainty.”