Hey, it’s Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor. And today we’re gonna acknowledge the elephant in the room—that after months and months of Great-Resignation-talk, we may be looking at the possibility of a Great Recession… and maybe some layoffs ahead. So if this is something on your mind, let’s talk about some steps you can take to be ready for anything that may come your way.
I was 16 the first time my heart was broken. I saw it coming. And even though it was done with kindness and empathy (seriously—he had a lot of emotional intelligence for an 18-year-old guy!) it hurt like all get out. Thought I would die. But then… I didn’t. I healed. And now I can look back and see he wasn’t the one for me—and that heartbreak was a gift. I know—insert vomit-face emoji. But time healing wounds and all that.
So why the choice to overshare today? Because after months and months (and months!) of talk about the Great Resignation—about companies fighting to hold onto warm bodies—we’re starting to see signals of the pendulum swinging the other way. For the first time in a long time I’m hearing rumblings of layoffs—and people around me are getting anxious. And I’m thinking about breakups—personal and professional. Granted, my teenage heartbreak didn’t have financial implications, and I don’t mean to trivialize. But at the time, I thought it would end me and it didn’t. And a prospective layoff doesn’t have to end you.
So if you’re sitting in a swamp of anxiety or helplessness right now—you think you see the writing on the wall and you’re feeling frozen in fear—then let’s talk about some steps you can take to ease your mind and be prepared for whatever may be coming at you.
Start with solid intel
You may be seeing headlines about the crumbling economy… but remember that sexy, scary headlines sell! So before you panic, get some solid information—not about the global or national economy, but about your company or your industry.
Do you have access to public financial statements or recent press releases? How’s your company performing, and are its products or services likely to be more or less in demand as the economy constricts?
Likewise, talk to people in the know. Ask your boss what they’re hearing or what they anticipate. Talk to colleagues in similar roles or industries about what they’re expecting.
There’s no crystal ball here—no way to know for sure. But a little bit of solid info might assure you you’re worried for no reason. Or that you’re worried for the right reasons—but now you can prepare (and avoid the old gut punch).
Prepare for—but don’t expect—the worst
Tim Ferriss gave this great TED Talk called “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals.” Seriously—it’s worth a Google and 13 minutes of your time.
In it, he talks about fear and how we let it be this giant, amorphous blob of disaster that holds us back. But when we push ourselves to get specific about the outcome we fear, then we can create an action plan for either avoiding or solving for the bad outcomes.
So if you’re terrified of a job loss because you believe it will be the end of days, Ferriss would push you to state specifically, what are you really afraid might happen? Bankruptcy? Resume gap? Personal sense of failure? OK—those are real and specific.
But now we can plan.
Let’s take bankruptcy—you’re afraid a job loss might destroy you financially. OK, so what, specifically, can you do to prepare for this possible reality?
Can you start budgeting or streamlining expenses? Can you start a side hustle or pick up a part-time job to bring in additional income? What else can you think of now—before the scary thing happens—to prepare for the worst-case scenario? Taking the time to do this gives your brain a bit of relief, of breathing room.
Now, the idea of a job loss may not be compelling… but hopefully it feels less heartstoppingly terrifying.
Remind everyone of your value
So you have a plan for what you’ll do if the layoff hits. But also, let’s try to prevent it from happening, shall we?
This is a great moment to remind people of your contributions—what have you tried, delivered, or accomplished that you want to keep top of mind for the decision-makers around you?
Don’t be obnoxious. But also, don’t be shy.
What you don’t want to do is list 17 things you’ve done this year while your boss stares at your face.
Nope—there are most subtle ways to highlight your goodness. Like, maybe you share a piece of customer feedback with your boss that just happens to be the result of your work or service. Or maybe you ask your boss for feedback on something you did and you’re proud of… but hey—you’re always looking for more tips and ideas. Something like “hey boss—I’d love your feedback on that email campaign I ran last month. I was excited by its 20% open rate but I’d love your suggestions on how to push that number even higher.”
These approaches are humble… but also serve to highlight your awesomeness.
Make yourself freshly invaluable
Highlight what you’ve already done, but also find new ways to be a critical resource for your organization.
Raise your hand to sit on a project committee. Or start doing research designed to help solve a problem your company or boss has been struggling with. Or take on a gnarly task (managing a dashboard or reviewing customer feedback or managing inventory) that’s critical for your company but not sexy enough for people to fight over owning.
The more you can make someone’s life easier or create opportunities for your company to win, the more the people around you will fight to keep you onboard should layoffs be a-coming.
Tap that network
Because ultimately you can do everything right, and the layoff may simply be unavoidable.
So start taking action before it happens. Polish your LinkedIn profile or your portfolio and start reaching out to your network—not in desperation but in curiosity. Start booking coffee chats or informational interviews. You don’t need to launch an active job search—but start laying the groundwork so you’re ready to hit the ground running should a new job become a must-have accessory.
If you’ve been feeling a sense of dread or anxiety around the possibility of layoffs, then I hope this has offered some peace of mind and the start of an action plan you can run with ASAP. And hopefully—none of your plans will be necessary!