“I Think I Might Lose My Job”

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Not a week goes by where I don’t get an email from someone who is in the midst of a panic attack.

“I think I might lose my job.”

I don’t know much in life, but I know this: if you think you’re losing your job, your job is gone. HR professionals are very good at planning and coordinating layoffs before anyone knows about it.

If you have an inkling of a reduction-in-force, you are probably right.

So here are a few things that come to mind when I get these email messages.

  1. Don’t say anything to anyone until you have definitive information. Talking about job loss to friends & family is tough enough when you have your facts straight. Everyone wants to give you advice and tell you how you will feel. When you only have part of the story? It can be a frustrating experience where you just sit & stew in negativity. Skip it until you know the facts of your situation. Tell your story on your terms.
  2. Stop spending money. This is easier said than done, but if you think you might lose your job, use this moment to change your life. Rethink your finances and your attachment to stuff.
  3. Get to the doctor, refill your prescription medications, and make a dental appointment. Not all layoffs are the same. I’ve laid people off who were on the payroll for an extended period of time and had access to benefits. I’ve let people go and their insurance coverage ends at midnight.
  4. Stop waiting for bad news. It’s easy to stop working when rumors are swirling. When you stop working, your brain starts to atrophy. Now is the time to tackle long-standing projects. Organize your files, go through your business books and donate a few to charity, and file those expense reports that you’ve been dreading. Make lists of things you want to accomplish in a week, in two weeks, and in thirty days. Start scratching stuff off your list.
  5. Don’t freak out and blast your network with resumes. You need a job search strategy. The worst time to act is when adrenaline is coursing through your veins.
  6. Dress for success. I can’t tell you how many times people assume the worst and start coming to work in scrubby jeans, sneakers, and a ratty ponytail. Convey a message of strength. Your job might be going away, but you still have integrity & dignity.

My final piece of advice? Seek counsel from people you trust and ignore the rest. Implement some boundaries. We’ve been through an immensely stressful period of time and just about everyone you know has been affected by job loss. For some reason, this makes everyone an expert in finding a job. Trust me. I have family members who have been on unemployment for 99 weeks who want to write a guest post on this blog.

The best way to avoid unsolicited advice from your family & friends is to say, “Thank you. That’s interesting. Can we talk about this some other time?”

And make sure that time never comes.

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