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Career-Life Times, Issue #54--How To Reduce Your Layoff Risk
December 09, 2008
Season's Greetings

Issue #54, December 9, 2008

In This Issue:

  • How To Reduce Your Layoff Risk
  • Job Interview of James Bond
  • How to Deal with a Bad Interviewer
  • Resources
  • Worth Quoting
  • Just for Laughs
  • Random Inspirations

    How To Reduce Your Layoff Risk

    When the economy is in the toilet (as it is now), companies must make sacrifices or die. And we all know the victims of those sacrifices: employees. The number of workers who have been laid off this year is staggering. And the worst may be yet to come.

    Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid being laid off. But that’s not always the case, and there are several ways you can lower your risk of being sacrificed.

    1. Don’t panic. Unless your company is closing its doors, a layoff means they will probably terminate a small percentage. If they’re firing 20% of their workforce, that means 80% will keep their jobs (or more, if the layoffs include vacant positions). If you panic and run around spreading doom and gloom, management will question your loyalty and doubt your value to the company. You might as well tape a target to your back.

    2. Assess your risk. Some departments and positions are more vulnerable to layoffs than others. What product or service do you support? (Virtually everyone ultimately supports a product or service in some way.) Is that product or service still perceived as necessary and/or successful by management? If not, your name could already be on the “to-be-sacrificed” list, regardless of how well you do your job or how long you’ve been with the company. The bottom line is, unfortunately, the bottom line. But there’s still hope. Read on.

    3. Reduce your risk. Even if your department or position is targeted for layoff, you can take steps to try to save yourself.

  • Transfer to another, less-risky department or position, if possible. If you know the product/service you support is being discontinued, apply for openings that support more successful products/services—even if this means a demotion or pay cut.

  • Make sure the layoff decision maker (who may be above your boss) knows who you are, what you do, and how you contribute to the company. This is no time to be shy or modest. Write up a very detailed description and provide it to that decision maker. If you succeed in describing yourself as essential you’re your job as “outsourcing proof,” the decision maker may remove your name from the layoff list.

  • Become more versatile. Specialization can be good in many cases, but when times are tough, positions that are not deleted may be combined. Learn how to do other jobs. Volunteer to cross-train and/or rotate assignments. The more you’re able to do, the more valuable you’ll be to your company.

  • Demonstrate leadership. You don’t have to be a supervisor to be a leader. Help others. Teach, mentor, and guide co-workers. If you’re seen as a leader, you’ll be move valuable to your company.

  • Work harder. Come in early, skip coffee breaks, work through lunch, and stay late. Show that you’re working your ass off. And smile while you’re doing it.

    If you are successful with these tactics and avoid being among those who are laid off from your company, don’t celebrate too much. It’s likely you’ll now be doing more work for the same (or less) pay. And seeing friends and co-workers get fired while you remain employed can be traumatic. It’s normal to feel a bit of “survivor’s guilt.” But don’t allow it to affect your job performance. More layoffs may be yet to come.

    If you are unable to avoid being laid off, don’t take it personally. Even the best employees get laid off. I realize that won’t ease your pain. But try to look at it as an opportunity to get a fresh start. Getting angry or depressed will not help you. Don’t let your emotions distract you from what you need to do now.

    If you receive a notice that you’re being laid off, be sure to:

    1. Talk to your HR department.

  • Will you get severance pay? Is the amount negotiable? Be sure to carefully read anything they give you related to your severance package. Don’t feel pressured to sign it quickly.

  • Will any form of career counseling or placement assistance be available?

  • If you have vested stock options, what can you do with them and how long do you have to do it?

  • How long before your company health coverage (if you have any) is canceled?

  • Can you get a letter explaining the reason for your termination?

  • How soon can you register for unemployment? Do it as soon as possible.

    2. Take care of your assets.

  • If you have a flexible spending account, try to use it up before you leave the company.

  • If you have pension or 401K plans, consider rolling them into an IRA.

  • If you have a client/customer list, take it with you (as long as this is not prohibited by your employment agreement).

  • Download personal data from your company computer that you want to keep; delete personal data you don’t want others to see.

  • Don’t burn any bridges when you leave. Regardless of how you feel about being laid off, you may need recommendations from them later.

  • Evaluate your personal finances and cut back on spending to make your savings last as long as possible.

    3. Understand that you are not jobless—your new job is to get a new job. Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. You have valuable skills and experience that other companies will benefit from. You may want to reflect a bit on what you want to do next. Did you love what you were doing? If not, this may be a good time to consider a different career. But don’t wait too long. Getting busy with your job search will help you get through the emotional turmoil of being fired. And you don’t want to have to explain a long gap of unemployment on your résumé to your next potential employer.

    4. Make networking a key component of your job search. Be open about your layoff (it’s nothing to be ashamed of) and inform family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances—everyone in your network—that you are back in the job market. Tell them what you are looking for and what skills you have to offer.

    Keep a positive attitude and you’ll soon reap positive results.

    Job Interview of James Bond

    If you’re a Bond fan, you might enjoy this. I haven’t seen the new 007 movie yet, but thought I’d have a little fun with the current Bond buzz.

    After placing my super-secret spy listening device in an interview room, I overheard this conversation…

    “Hi, thank you for coming in for an interview. My name is Mr. Big.”

    “The name is Bond. James Bond. I’ll call you B. Here’s my résumé. It’s for your eyes only.”

    “Uh, thanks. Nice tuxedo, by the way. Please have a seat and… what are you doing?”

    “Just repositioning the chair. I never sit with my back to the door.”

    “Okay… Well, can I offer you something to drink before we get started? Water or…”

    "I’ll have a martini. Shaken, not stirred."

    “Very funny. Let’s begin. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself, Mr. Bond?”

    “I travel a lot. I’m a sort of problem eliminator… a trouble shooter. I speak a variety of languages, including German, French, Russian and Japanese. I have a practical knowledge of Judo and other martial arts. I’ve served in the Royal Navy, where I obtained the rank of Commander before joining Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I have a fondness for high-tech gadgets and fast cars. And I can withstand brutal torture without divulging classified information.”

    “Hmmm. Amazing. You’ve covered your strengths; what’s your greatest weakness?”

    “Femme fatales. I can never resist a beautiful woman, even when I know she wants to kill me. But don’t tell my enemies that. If you do, I’ll have to kill you.”


    “Seriously. I’m licensed to kill. I can’t tell you how many egomaniacal people bent on world domination I’ve had to eliminate.”

    “Yeah, right. And it doesn't bother you? Killing all those people?”

    “Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.”

    “Okay, well, I don’t think we need someone with your, uh, skills, Mr. Bond. The job of ticket agent doesn’t requiring any killing.”

    Ticket agent? I thought the job was… well, never mind. My apologies. I’ll show myself out.”

    “It was quite fascinating talking with you, Mr. Bond. I’m sure there’s an employer somewhere who’d give the world for a man of your unique talents.”

    “The world is not enough.”

    How to Deal with a Bad Interviewer

    (This is a guest article by Judi Perkins)

    The only thing that might be more difficult to deal with than an interviewer who asks tough, probing questions is an interviewer who hasn’t a clue how to interview. You leave the interview feeling as if you ignited no interest, bombed the interview, and surely won’t be asked back. Where was the scintillating conversation? The professional give-and-take about the industry and your skills?

    But if you’ve just met the person, how are you to know if they’re a lousy interviewer—or you’re a lousy interviewee? If you prepared for the interview, then you’ve an indication where the problem lies, because your preparation enables you to jump in and take control of those awkward moments.

    I speak often about the importance of an interview being a two-way street. This not only means that you need to be interviewing the company as they are you, but that the company needs to sell themselves to you, as you are selling yourself to them. If the interviewer doesn’t have those sales skills, you need elicit the information.

    More than that, if the interviewer doesn’t know how to ask questions to dig deeper into your capabilities and interest, you’ll need to tell him, lest the entire interview go by and you haven’t uttered a word. If that happens, the only thing still able to speak for you is your resume, leaving you no closer to being hired than you were when you walked through the door.

    Interviewers who ramble on and on ad nauseum about the company need to be re-directed before you begin snoring. Interviewers who don’t have the ability to speak about the company or the position should be prompted with your questions. Interviewers who are unprepared, or perhaps even forgot about their appointment with you, must be briefed—by you—on your background, because they probably don’t remember your resume.

    Lots of holes and awkward pauses in the conversation? If the interviewer doesn’t have the sense (or ability) to ask you what your skills are or why you’d be a great choice for the company, speak up and tell him. Toot your own horn. “I’d like to tell you about the time I put a winning proposal together under a stiff deadline, since the job we’re speaking of is also very deadline oriented.” That doesn’t mean talk non-stop, but it does mean don’t sit there and be uncomfortably silent for long periods of time.

    Jump right in with the questions you came prepared to ask. What are the priorities that need to be addressed immediately? What’s a typical day like? How long has the interviewer been with the company? Why does he stay?

    Don’t spend time thinking about how you wish he’d ask you a question. Don’t daydream or think about your grocery list. Listen closely to what the interviewer is saying. When he pauses for a breath or there’s a gap in the conversation, insert one of your finest sales points that relates to what he’s been saying. If he’s a non-stop talker, you’ll need to be alert for the spots in which you can take control. There may be only a few of them.

    Other interviewers may ask questions, but stupid and unimaginative ones. “I see you worked at The Snappy Scissors Company. How did you like working there?” (“Um, I hated it. That’s why I left. Duh.”) Answer with what you learned while you were there, and remember not to disparage any previous employers. Resist rolling your eyes if they go through your entire resume this way or if you’re asked a Barbara Walters question: “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?”

    Sometimes getting a bit of movement in helps. Ask for a tour of the building or offices. A tour provides focal points for questions and an opportunity for words related to why you’re there. Ask about the decision making time frame and if there are any other steps involved.

    If you’re left without a clue as to how it went, or you rarely had an opportunity to open your mouth, ask if you can set up an interview with any others in the department or your interviewer’s boss or other decision makers in the company. Perhaps they’ll be a better interviewer!

    Be patient with these inept people. Smile, and maintain enthusiasm. Whatever their interviewing skills—or lack thereof—it’s possible they’ve had very limited interviewing experience. Speaking up and taking control of the interview may be the only thing that not only gives you the information you need, but saves the interview from being a total bomb.

    They may be a bad interviewer, but they’re the ones who make the hiring decision. You can’t make a choice to accept an offer if you haven’t been given that choice.

    By Judi Perkins, the Renegade Job Coach. For more of Judi’s tips, visit Find Your Perfect Job.


    More Articles. You can find more articles on my website by clicking on Article Index. Here are some of the new ones you might enjoy:

  • Do You Love the Job You're In?

  • Three Persistent Job-Search Myths

  • “Personal Development for Smart People”: Can This Book Change Your Life?

    JobBite. Is IBM still a good place to work? Check this site to find out. It provides information about companies and their jobs provided by current or former employees—NOT the companies' HR or PR sections. Get f*ree access (you don't even have to register) to the ratings, salaries, benefits, corporate culture, policies and whatever else people want to tell you. Discover the good, the bad and the ugly in a very simple-to-use format. In addition to doing research on companies you're considering as possible employers, you can share your own opinions about where you've worked. Everything is anonymous. Because the site is new, there's not a lot of information yet, but I'm sure it will grow--especially if you help by sharing your opinions. Go to

    GreatPlaceJobs. GreatPlaceJobs makes it easy to search for positions with award-winning employers. As a bonus, membership in GreatPlaceJobs entitles you to a free lifetime membership in the GreatPlaceJobs Network on LinkedIn as well as the opportunity to attend free informational webinars and teleseminars to help with your job search and career plans! For more information, go to

    Job Interview Success System. This is a step-by-step system I developed to help you ace your next job interview. See the details here: Job Interview Success System.

    Worth Quoting

    "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm,
    you'll be fired with enthusiasm."
    (Vince Lombardi)

    Just for Laughs

    The Ultimate Rejection Letter

    Harold C. Myles
    Chair - Search Committee
    412A Clayton Hall, Whitley University
    College Hill, CA 94109

    Dear Professor Myles,

    Thank you for your letter of November 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me a position as assistant professor in your department.

    This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

    Despite Whitley’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this January. I look forward to seeing you then.

    Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.


    Chris T. Jackson

    Random Inspirations

    I’m sorry this issue is late. It was supposed to be the November issue and yet here it is December and I’m just getting it out to you. But hey, it’s the holiday season. That’s not a good excuse, but it sounds better than “I got lazy.”

    Here in America, we recently celebrated Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for the usual stuff: a terrific husband, a loving family, a healthy body, a wonderful home, a job that pays the bills, the ability to do what I enjoy, a cat who provides comic relief on a daily basis. I don’t need a holiday to be thankful for these things. I know how truly valuable they are, and I never take them for granted.

    On Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I enjoyed feasting on ridiculous amounts of food with 37 other people at my sister-in-law’s house. That’s a lot of people. It’s a small house. I heard many delightful squeals from the kids and frequent laughter from the adults. But other than a lament or two about the economy, I didn’t hear a single complaint or disparaging remark. Not even a mild insult about an ex-wife. Seriously. It was almost spooky.

    Next up comes Christmas, and then Near Year’s. Too much eating, shopping, partying. Too many family get-togethers. I don’t know how I’ll be able to get my “work from home after working at work” work done. Isn’t it a wonderful time of year?

    I wish you all a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

    So, what did you think of this issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at

    Please forward this to your friends!


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