You Should Never Wait For A Layoff To Prepare For Your Job Search

Communications Specialist for Insperity Recruiting Services, specializing in employment branding and recruitment marketing.

A few short months ago, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, its lowest since 1969. The economy had added jobs for nearly eight straight years, and the resulting candidate’s market often afforded job seekers their pick of multiple offers. Then, suddenly, everything changed. An unexpected global pandemic caused the unemployment rate to shoot up to 14.7% in less than two months. Seemingly overnight, employees who considered their jobs secure were now out of work.

In the months from April to July, the economy began to slowly recover, with the unemployment rate falling to 10.2%. However, 16.3 million Americans are currently unemployed, an increase of 10.6 million since February. Now, there are two types of workers/prospective workers: those looking for a job, and those who should be prepared to look for a job. Though Covid-19 has added an extra layer of difficulty due to the number of business closures, it has also shown how quickly things can change, and how important it is to be prepared.

While a resume can be updated fairly quickly, there are other elements of a job search that are much more time-consuming, and waiting for a layoff to start them could add months to the search, costing valuable time and money. Therefore, it’s in every worker’s best interest to have them prepared before they’re needed. Let’s look at a few.

Numbers And Accomplishments

Most work can be boiled down to a series of assignments and goals that are accomplished over time. Some are very small and others much larger. Whether or not employees are evaluated through an annual performance review or regular one-on-ones with a manager throughout the year, performance is measured relative to goal completion.

Employees should keep accurate records of performance reviews, achievements, goals attained and especially supporting numbers, as prospective employers will most likely ask for applicants’ records of achievement. In the event a manager and employee are laid off simultaneously or within a short time of one another, circumstances may not allow retrieving this information after termination.

Portfolio Of Work

For those in creative fields, a portfolio of past work may be required for employment. Like numbers and accomplishments, waiting until one is unemployed to start compiling a portfolio of projects could be detrimental to a job search. Not only could it take months to collect samples of past work from a variety of completed projects, but some may be unavailable months or years after completion. If they are no longer publicly displayed, gaining access to past projects, as well as permission to obtain personal copies, may require contacting a former employer, which could prove uncomfortable if the worker left on bad terms, or if he or she no longer knows anyone at the company.

Keeping a portfolio of completed projects and continuously adding to it can help alleviate the hassle of trying to assemble one under the pressures of an impending layoff or unemployment.

Social Media Presence

The ubiquity of social media in the past decade requires at least a basic understanding of and presence on the most popular social platforms. According to a CareerBuilder study, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates when hiring, and 47% are less likely to interview a candidate with no social media presence. Therefore, even if an employee’s job duties don’t involve social media, not having an online presence can severely hinder a job search should he or she decide to change careers or become unemployed.

Similar to a project portfolio, a strong social presence can’t be established in a few days, but requires months or years of work and grows over time. Consequently, it’s in every employee’s best interest to ensure he or she has an online presence that paints them in a positive light before it becomes necessary for a job search.

Industry Contacts

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While the saying may be old and trite, anyone who has been out of work knows the truth behind it. Extroverts with dozens of industry connections and strong self-promotion skills will often have far less difficulty rebounding after a layoff than introverts with fewer connections, even if they possess greater skills or experience.

The solution: Network before networking is required. Should employees find themselves facing sudden unemployment, the more preliminary networking they have done, the more industry contacts they will have, and the better the chance of someone in their network referring them to an open position. This also works in reverse, in that being able to refer other job seekers to open positions shows a willingness to help and makes them more likely to reciprocate if the need arises.

There’s never a convenient time to be unemployed. Though the recovery of the job market during and after Covid-19 will determine many job seekers’ success, the ease or difficulty in finding new employment will also depend upon a number of factors, including industry, demand, past experience and advance job search preparation. Job seekers only have immediate control over the last of these elements. Thinking and preparing like a job seeker when one is comfortably employed can help reduce the stress and duration of a job search significantly if an employee finds himself or herself out of work.


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