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10 Things to Do If You’re Worried About Layoffs

These steps can ease anxiety and help you find what’s next in your career

a concerned man sits with his hands folded looking at his laptop
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After several years of employers desperately looking for enough workers to fill their job openings, layoffs appear to be on the rise. A survey by résumé service ResumeBuilder.com found that 61 percent of business leaders expect their companies to have layoffs this year, and one in three companies anticipate laying off 30 percent or more of their workforce.

Those statistics can be particularly alarming for employees 50 and older who often face ageism when looking for a new job. If you’re worried about the possibility of losing your job, there are some things you can do to prepare.

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1. Start with a reality check

First of all, don’t panic, says licensed social worker and performance coach Brie Scolaro, director of Aspire Psychotherapy. Take a moment and analyze the situation objectively. “What makes you think you will be laid off, and is there a basis for this? Is your company in an industry that is particularly affected, such as tech in 2022, and has your company announced or already begun layoffs? Identify if there is a real reason for this fear or if it comes from your own anxiety and insecurity,” Scolaro says. Even when companies do plan layoffs, most will keep the majority of their employees.

2. Examine your finances

The next step is to evaluate the state of your finances. “Most people are on autopilot with their money. As long as they’re not going in the hole every month, they’re usually not paying close attention to their spending,” says financial coach Christine Luken, host of the Money is Emotional podcast. She recommends reviewing income and spending patterns — using a free app such as Mint or Fudget may help — as well as your savings, to get a clear financial picture.

While you’re at it, you can make a list of ways to cut expenses, such as canceling subscriptions and eating out less. This process may help you feel more in control, as you’ll have actions you can take if the layoff does happen. “It gets those worries out of your head and onto paper,” Luken says.

3. Fill your emergency fund

Padding your emergency fund can give you greater peace of mind if you’re worried about being unemployed. “Most people wouldn’t have $1,000 available if they had an emergency,” says financial coach Joan Mistrough, founder of Money Proud Financial Coaching. She advises saving as much as you can to help cover expenses if you are laid off. If you’re having trouble finding extra cash to save, consider implementing some of your planned spending cuts or paying the minimum amounts on your debts to build a bigger cash cushion.

4. Look into your unemployment benefits

If you’re laid off, you may be entitled to benefits from unemployment insurance. The joint federal-state program is administered by each state. Once you apply for unemployment benefits, it may take a few weeks to receive your first check, so having this information in advance may enable you to file sooner and get the benefits you’re due quicker. You can find your state unemployment insurance office here.

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5. Reconnect with your network

The pandemic, remote work and lack of professional networking events may have shrunk your personal and professional networks over the past few years. (A Yale University study found that personal networks shrank by an average of 16 percent during the pandemic.) The 2022 Job Seeker Nation report from HR technology firm Employ found that people often find out about career opportunities from friends (46 percent) and professional connections (25 percent). So it might be a good time to go through your LinkedIn contacts or reach out to old work friends and colleagues.

6. Refresh your résumé and LinkedIn profile

Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile, so you’re immediately ready to pursue a new job or explore an opportunity that comes your way, Mistrough says. It’s always a good idea to keep both up to date, as you never know when you may need them.

7. Start a side hustle

Luken suggests finding ways to diversify your income streams. Consider lining up freelance or consulting work or a part-time job. First, check any employment contract or agreement you have to ensure that you’re not restricted from doing so. Be sure to talk to your accountant or financial adviser about the impact a side hustle might have on collecting unemployment benefits if you are laid off from your primary job.

8. Consider a career coach or therapist

If you’re having a hard time managing the stress related to a layoff, Scolaro suggests consulting a career coach or even a therapist. “Ultimately, we are human, and it is important to allow the fear to be there without it dictating your thoughts and your actions,” she says.

A therapist or coach may help you manage these emotions and develop a plan to deal with a layoff.

9. Take care of yourself

“The hardest part about layoff fears is the anxiety that it creates in your mind and in your heart. It catalyzes a wide variety of ‘what if’ scenarios that in our darkest moments paint a grim picture of what could happen,” Scolaro says.

Identify any negative thoughts you are battling. You can do this activity in your head or write your thoughts, then challenge them, Scolaro says. Think through the worst-case scenario and how you would respond. Develop a plan of action. Recalling how you’ve dealt with previous challenges may give you the resolve you need if the worst does happen.

10.  Find new opportunities

Scolaro suggests reframing the situation. “How could being laid off represent an opportunity or something positive in your life?” she says.

Think about what you want to do next. Is this a chance to switch careers, contemplate retirement or reevaluate what you value in your work? Sometimes, when we’re forced to make a change, it’s an opportunity to create something.

The prospect of losing a job can be stressful and even frightening; however, if you manage the emotions and create a plan, you can be better prepared for what may — or may not — come next. 

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