For thousands still working, many are concerned about the security of their jobs. The economic fallout from the coronavirus that has put more than 30 million people out of work, and the impact continues to roll over the employment landscape. It's hard not to wonder whether you'll be next, and whether your job is actually in danger.
HRU Technical Resources President Tim Sackett says that there are two major signs that you might be about to lose your job. Those are:
- More private meetings between senior leaders, which could indicate some strife behind the scenes
- Bosses who have suddenly become overly talkative or very quiet in comparison to their usual behavior
In addition to unusual behavior by leaders in your workplace, you should also be aware of news in your industry and whether experts believe it could be in danger. For example, credit card companies are expected to see a downturn, so if you work for a supply company that mostly does work with credit card companies, your company — and you — could be facing tough times.
If you're worried about losing your job, there are steps that you need to take to protect yourself. Experts suggest that the following:
Step 1 – Update your resume
Make sure your resume is updated with your latest job information, certifications, awards and key accomplishments. In addition, taking the time to craft a well-written cover letter is critical. Your cover letter doesn't need to be long or elaborate. However, since nearly half of all job seekers skip this step altogether, writing one can help you stand out in a tough economy.
Step 2 – Understand employment status change
A layoff means that you lost your job through no fault of your own and you might be able to get a severance package and file for unemployment. The employer does not give you a definitive time when you will be hired back, if at all.
If you are furloughed, you also lose your job, but it's for a specific period of time and can be voluntary or mandatory. During the coronavirus pandemic when so many employers are furloughing or laying off workers, you should research how your industry is expected to do in the coming months. It could be your industry, such as hospitality, isn't expected to recover soon and you could be looking at a more long-term layoff or furlough with little chance of being hired back quickly.
Step 3 – Understand your benefits
In the United States, some 49 percent of Americans get their health insurance through their company. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you are allowed to stay on your company's coverage for up to 18 months. If you're unsure how COBRA works or how to roll over your company 401(k) to an IRA or another employer if you get laid off, you need to check into it. Most employers have their benefits information online or available through their human resources department, so make sure you're clear on future coverage. Visit your state's unemployment site to make sure you understand how to file for benefits.
Step 4 – Be careful what you sign
Sackett says that whether you are laid off or terminated, most employers will have you sign documents on your way out. Often, this is tied to a payout or continued healthcare, so you may feel some pressure to sign immediately. However, no employer can make you sign anything. Take the documents, consult an attorney, and take your time making that decision.
Step 5 – Focus on transferable skills
One way to get a leg up on the competition is to focus on your "transferable skills" that can be used in other industries. Transferable skills include hard skills, technical skills or even soft skills. For example, employers are often looking for those who are team players, good at communication and problem-solving, as well as those who are friendly and customer-focused. When you emphasize these skills on your resume, you help an employer see how you can fit in and be a valuable employee.
Step 6 – Grow your skills
While you're waiting to find out if you can keep your job, start adding to your skill set. For example, Udacity offers free training in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and data analysis while the Project Management Institute is offering free training materials and courses such as Project Management for Beginners.
Step 7 – Make a copy of key contacts
"Most of us now use LinkedIn for a lot of that networking, but you want to make sure you download a copy of key contacts you will need to network to get your next job," says Sackett.
Step 8 – Don't do anything illegal
If you download or send anything from your employer to a private account, it can put you at risk of being sued, especially if you sign a severance package, says Sackett. Make sure you don't "accidentally" take home company equipment without permission during this time. If you do get laid off, make sure you promptly return all company property.
Step 9 – Don't gossip
When you're unsure what's happening, it can be easy to fall into the trap of speculation and gossip at work. Trashing your boss on social media or speculating about the financial health of the company is not only destructive to your career reputation — but could get you fired immediately.
There is a difference of opinion on whether you should start looking for a job if you're concerned about being fired. Some experts believe you should start a job search the moment you begin to feel worried, while Sackett says you should look for another job only if you're fully committed to leaving your current employer.
Sackett says he has seen too many people start a job search out of fear of being laid off and wind up getting a job offer they aren't prepared to actually take because they're still employed.