11 things you should do if you're worried about your future after a round of layoffs, according to career experts

  • Employers cut 20.5 million payrolls in April, marking the largest-ever one-month contraction, according to a Friday report from the Labor Department. 
  • Heading into the fall, furloughs announced earlier in the pandemic began turning into permanent layoffs.
  • If you survived a layoff at your company, career experts say to be wary of signs that more trouble will hit your company down the line.
  • Private meetings, media reports of trouble in your industry, and a shift in company culture can all signal more layoffs down the line.
  • But if you find yourself taking on new responsibilities after the layoff, experts suggest you stick around.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A record 20.5 million jobless claims were filed in April, marking the largest-ever one-month contraction, according to a report from the Labor Department. 

This comes as major companies like Uber, Airbnb, Boeing, Shake Shack, and others laid off workers early in the pandemic, followed by others. In late August, MGM Resorts said it was permanently laying off 18,000 employees previously furloughed. 

If you survived a company layoff but worry about more down the line, here are 11 things career experts say you should do.

Even if you survived a layoff, always keep your resume updated and watch the job market.

Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume, recommends employees always make sure they are prepared for the worst, even if they just weathered an initial layoff. 

The best professionals, she said, are ones that are keeping an eye on the next big opportunity even if they're not looking to immediately jump ship. Even if you don't know how your company will fare after a layoff, keep your resume updated and be aware of open jobs on the market, Augustine said. 

"Make sure you have a copy of your performance reviews, testimonials, anything that you could use as fodder to help you update your LinkedIn profile and your resume," Augustine said. "It is always better to update your resume and prepare for a job search when you do not immediately need to find a new job."

Find out whether your boss has a plan for how the company will bounce back after layoffs.

The fact that a layoff happened indicates something in your company's business model failed, said Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of Ladders job search. In turn, your company should have a plan to make adjustments to get back on track.

If you don't sense upper management has a plan for how the company plans to get better and more profitable, you should look elsewhere, Cenedella said. 

Keep an eye out for how the company culture changes following layoffs.

When trying to differentiate between whether a layoff will lead to renewed growth or if there's more bad news down the line, Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job," said to pay attention to company culture. 

"Does it seem like your work is going unnoticed or unappreciated?" Taylor asked. "This may or may not be personal, but it may be part of a layoff where your boss doesn't want to make you feel like everything is honky dory anymore because there's going to be [another] layoff."

Red flags that could suggest your company might make more layoffs down the line include: 

  • A change in the quality of how human resources handles your complaints
  • A lack of friendliness among staff or higher ups
  • No encouragement to start new projects or a lack of innovation among teams
  • Getting excluded from meetings or feeling ignored by your boss

 

Be wary if you see your boss having more closed-door meetings or calls than usual.

If your boss is holding more private meetings or conference calls with human resources officers, consultants, or higher-level executives, your company may not be out of the woods following layoffs.

"Particularly if your boss or your boss's boss is involved, that's something to keep an eye and an ear out for," Taylor said. "Are they just talking about how we're restructuring now that we lost a bunch of people, or is there more coming down the line? You don't know."

Have an honest conversation with your manager about whether more layoffs are on the horizon.

If you have a good relationship with your manager, Augustine said just asking them what they know can't hurt. 

Even if higher-ups won't allow your manager to disclose details, a conversation might help you figure out whether your role will change. If you sense your responsibilities are shrinking instead of leading to growth, that may be a good sign you should look elsewhere.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with asking, 'Do you think, do you think that this may be the end of it or is this only the beginning?'" Augustine added. "Everyone's got rents or mortgages or college, so it's important to have a sense of where things are."

Write down your observations and get some outside advice.

Sometimes, your company might say they will become more profitable, but you still have a "gut feeling" that the firm might make further cuts down the line.

In this situation, Taylor said to write down the changes you've noticed since the layoffs and talk to a trusted mentor, friend, or former colleague. Sometimes, a mentor will read your frustrations and advise you to look elsewhere, but other times they might tell you to stop overthinking the situation.

"You could go with your gut, but a very good disciplined approach that most people don't follow is to make a list of those feelings and memorialize it to paper," Taylor added. 

Find out if you can take over new responsibilities from departed employees.

Sometimes, layoffs are an opportunity for lower-level employees to take over responsibilities unavailable to them in a larger team.

In fact, entry-level or less-experienced workers sometimes get to wear multiple hats and learn new skills when they take over from laid off employees. If you can ask your boss to get some new responsibilities that can bulk up your resume, Augustine recommended sticking around.

"If you were ever trying to alter your role in some way or just develop your role further, this might be a great opportunity to raise your hand and look like a great team player," she said.

If layoffs happened but the most talented, accomplished people survived, your company might bounce back.

Cenedella recalled an instance where he reached out to the best engineers he knew at Uber following news of layoffs. The engineers told him that not only were they safe, but all the best employees survived.

That signaled to Cenedella that layoffs weren't necessarily meant to cut the most expensive workers, but rather the teams that weren't producing efficiently enough.

"They just got away with what wasn't working for them," Cenedella said.

Know how to recognize whether it's just your company that's in hot water, or if your entire industry might be on the decline.

If news reports say your entire industry is on the decline, you might not have luck finding another job at your current company's competitors — and you might need to consider a career change.

"If you really know that your industry is gone, then you've got to focus on, 'How am I recalibrating my skills and my background for a new industry and a new role,'" Cenedella said.

If you want to leave a company after layoffs, but don't know whether to stick around until you land a dream job, give it four to six months.

If you know you want to leave your job, but don't know whether to hold out until you get your dream job or salary, Cenedella said to spend four to six months job hunting. If you've been interviewing for half a year and interested companies have offered you similar salaries and positions, that might be an indicator that further searching might not be fruitful.

"If you've talked to a dozen people, if 12 people have offered you eighty grand, it's unlikely that the 13th is going to give you $125,000," Cenedella added.

Make sure you have contact information for your HR representative as well as your company's retirement savings coordinator.

In the event that you get laid off, you're likely going to have questions regarding health insurance, severance, or other issues. So you'll want to make sure you have the email or phone number to you HR representative just in case. 

You'll likely also want to to roll over your 401(k) or other retirement funds once you secure new employment, so knowing how to contact the person who handles your company's retirement funds is important. 

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