There’s news from the stock market and it’s all bad. The best news from the first week of trading in the new year is that the market can’t fall any farther until Monday. We’ve made it to correction territory in the span of a few days.
In truth the economic headwinds have been blowing since 2015 that include falling oil prices, causing liquidity to dry up around the world. Then there was the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the collapse of its stock market that sent shockwaves through the global economy. Corporate earnings are lower and stock prices are in freefall. That combination, hitting the economy that hard is almost always followed by pink slips as companies try to stem the red ink and stabilize stock prices.
Record Job Creation? Not Really
The ironic thing about a layoff warning now is that we just posted a blowout jobs report in December, with the economy creating 295,000 jobs, blowing away analyst estimates. For the year the economy posted 2.65 million new jobs in 2015, its best job creation spree since 1999. You might remember 1999 as the year before the Dot-Com crash. As Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again.
What we’re seeing once again is the lag between economic numbers and economic reality. The good news of backward facing economic numbers runs smack into the reality of dozens of layoff announcements from companies like Whole Foods, Walmart, Dupont, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus. Pink slips are going out by the hundreds and, sometimes, by the thousands. The layoff announcements can happen up to a year before employees are actually let go.
The time to prepare for a possible pink slip is the very time when job creation numbers are the best, like they are today.
More Than Just Brushing Up Your Resume
Use this time wisely to prepare for the layoffs that are almost certainly going to be the next stage of the meltdown. Absolutely, bring your resume up to date but don’t stop there. Think about investing in some up to date interview clothes instead of that tie that’s been floating around in a back corner of your closet for five years. Another step is learn to quantify your current job in terms of numbers. Have you increased efficiency or saved the company money? Document those changes, including the savings and make sure those numbers are defensible. Remember, you’re likely to be competing with a river of people in the same boat. Be the one that stands out in a positive way.
Making Yourself Layoff Proof
Because layoff notices have to be made so far in advance, it’s not too late to solidify your current position with skills that will also set you apart in a job hunt. One skill frequently overlooked by office workers is being a wizard with Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets are the lifeblood of any company and are used to track sales, inventory, customer information and a host of business critical information. The people who can make that data available in real time to company decision makers are golden.
Get Control of Spending
Now is also the time to shore up your budget, pay down credit card balances and bank some money ahead. How long you’ll be out of work in the event of a pink slip will depend on how many other people are competing for jobs. With the painfully slow hiring process of some companies, it’s probably good to plan to be out of work for at least three months. Unemployment might cover some of it, but benefits are pretty meager these days.
It certainly must seem crazy to talk about layoff survival in the midst of blowout jobs numbers but history teaches that this is exactly the right time. You can’t afford to be surprised by a pink slip.