These days, every time you open LinkedIn, there’s another post from someone who was laid off and had to say goodbye to their colleagues. We expected the job market to pick up as the COVID-19 pandemic winded down – instead, there’s endless news of companies laying off employees and freezing hiring.
This summer alone, major Canadian companies such as Shopify, Clearco, and Wealthsimple laid off employees. Meanwhile, companies such as Google, Meta, Twitter, and others have slowed or frozen hiring – while Spotify and Coinbase rescinded offers already promised to candidates.
So, there are troubling signs for job seekers and those who already have a job and would like to keep it.
That’s the subject we’re tackling today: keeping the job you have when the market is anticipating a recession and companies are scrambling to find cost-cutting measures.
Here are the steps you should take to avoid being laid off in an unstable economy:
- Understand your value and the value of your role
- Upskill and use your professional development budget
- Find gaps or areas where you can contribute
- Keep your managers informed about your work
Understand your value and the value of your role
Amid layoffs, organizations generally prefer to keep two types of employees: leaders and all-stars.
Leaders are absolutely vital to the functionality of a department or their projects. When you hear “leader”, you probably think “manager” and that’s often the case. However, sometimes leaders are rather the brains behind certain key initiatives, whether they started the project or they have the most knowledge of it. Losing them would be detrimental to the project and it’s challenging to find someone to take over their work.
All-stars are extremely well-rounded and high performers. They may have been hired to fulfill certain responsibilities but their wide array of skills allows them to go beyond their role and support other areas. They are also efficient and can work with different teams to deliver results. When a workforce is reduced, all-stars can jump in and cover the work that’s been left behind.
If you don’t fit into one of these categories, that doesn’t mean you’re not a valuable employee. Some people are highly skilled in something specific, rather than being a jack of all trades. And some are not leaders, but they do great work under somebody else’s leadership. Every one of these people deserves stable employment.
In a statement regarding their layoffs, Shopify said they were eliminating roles that were “overspecialized and duplicate”. In companies with hundreds of employees, you can find people doing similar jobs (which helps to spread around the workload) or people with expert knowledge in a specific field (doing optimal work for certain projects).
During healthy economic times, major companies are happy to hire for these roles. But when layoffs happen, these are the most vulnerable jobs. When cutting down duplicate roles, suddenly the remaining employees have more work to do but it will get done. And for overspecialized roles, they were a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have. Somebody else in the company can probably take over those projects or the projects will be put on hold.
Not your fault if you end up in one of these roles if that’s what you were hired for. And maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to develop into a leader or an all-star yet. But as long as you have your job, there’s always time to position your way into a less vulnerable role and become an employee no one wants to let go of.
Upskill and use your professional development budget
In the communications and marketing field, the upskilling opportunities are endless. There are even Tik Tok marketing classes out there – because of course there are!
Typically, professionals focus on upskilling only when they’re job hunting. They want to stack up those certifications on their resumes and on LinkedIn to prove to employers they can run an email marketing campaign or use Google Adwords.
However, upskilling is something you should be doing throughout your career. Especially, when this industry is always evolving and new platforms and tools come out every year. And algorithms are constantly evolving to make our (marketing) lives harder.
Many employers offer professional development budgets to their employees for taking relevant classes to learn new skills. Employers offer professional development budgets because they want you to use them. They want their employees to have the most up-to-date information on growing trends or be able to use a variety of useful tools to do their work more productively.
If your employer does not offer this, it’s still worth having a conversation with your manager. Tell them about a class or course you want to take and why it would be valuable, and ask them if they can cover the cost. The cost of most classes is extremely reasonable.
Upskilling is a great way to gain more value as an employee. It can improve your job performance and allow you to contribute in new areas. It is also a way to show your manager you have not grown complacent in your role over time. Rather, you’re always looking to grow and develop.
Find gaps or areas where you can contribute
There are almost always opportunities to go beyond your responsibilities and contribute to other areas of the business. Maybe your colleague has taken on a big project and they could use some support. Or your boss has a dream idea they’ve been wanting to plan out but haven’t had the time. You can even explore possibilities outside of your own department and skillset.
In my current role, my primary responsibilities are social media management and marketing but I’m really interested in product design. So, I’ve contributed design improvements for areas of our website that needed extra love, but no one had time for. These contributions have been so satisfying because I got to explore a new passion and build relationships with team members outside the marketing department. A colleague of mine started a podcast for the company, where she hosts and interviews guests. Neither one of us was hired for these specific projects but we’re lucky our managers were supportive of our pursuits.
Our pursuits added more value to the roles we were already in. Now, I’m the go-to liaison between the marketing and product teams, bringing to life product improvements the marketing team has wanted. This side hobby within my job actually became part of my job!
Expanding beyond the role you were hired for comes with several benefits such as connecting with new colleagues and learning new skills. It also shows you have an interest in seeing your organization succeed and want to be a part of that growth. Rather than only focusing on what you can gain out of your job, discover what else you may have to offer to your employer.
This is not a push for you to work longer hours or take on more projects than you can handle. Instead, it’s a nudge to look for opportunities that can bring more satisfaction to your daily routine and help you grow as a professional.
And as you find more areas where you can make a positive impact, you can earn greater acknowledgement from company leaders and add more value to your current role.
Keep your managers informed about your work
In most organizations, your manager will schedule time for both of you to connect regularly. This could be once a week or once a month, and the shape of these meetings really varies. They could just be conversations about what you’ve been working on or larger discussions about your career development.
If you do not currently have check-ins scheduled with your manager, definitely set that up. You may not have a great deal of camaraderie with your manager and maybe this feels awkward for you. But you’re more likely to develop a better relationship with them if you talk privately once in a while.
This is also very important for professional reasons. Managers can have a lot going on and they may just allow you to work independently. But that means they don’t always know about all the great work you’re doing – and the work you may be interested in trying out.
Check-ins should be a chance for you to brag about yourself (in a humble way). Talk about your accomplishments and show your manager the progress you’ve made in your role so far. You can also vocalize your ambitions for the future and how you’d like to develop within the organization. The conversation should demonstrate your high level of engagement and that you are preparing for a long, fruitful future with your employer.
Typically, the idea of having layoffs comes from the top executives but the actual picking of names comes down to managers. They are the ones who deal with employees day-to-day and have the best insight on who could go and who needs to stay.
If your manager has no idea what you do all day, that doesn’t bode well when it comes time to give names. However, if your manager knows about your contributions and the projects you’re working on, they’re more likely to understand your value to the organization and not want to let you go.
The reality is… you could do everything right and still be laid off. It’s happened to countless hard-working professionals and it’s always heartbreaking to see. That is why it’s also important to prepare for the worst, just in case. Try to have a safety net of savings that can support you if your income is cut off. Keep your resume updated if you need to deploy it quickly. And learn about whether your company offers any severance benefits.
If you’re lucky and keep your job throughout these difficult times, support fellow professionals with advice, referrals, or references. Let’s help each other weather this storm as much as we can.