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How I Avoided Being Laid Off

I’ll be open about it—I have been laid off twice in the past 6 years. I now am a state government employee and state budget cuts are rampant. A major layoff has been looming on the horizon for the past several months, and I knew my position, being a brand new one, was probably on the chopping block. Moreover, having been a state employee for only 2 ½ years, my lack of seniority made me particularly susceptible.

Yet I survived two rounds of layoffs. I attribute a little bit of that to luck, but a lot of it to strategy. I will share what I learned.

1.      Make yourself valuable

About a year ago, our department’s commissioner recognized the dire straits of the long-term unemployed, those who were about to drop off their Unemployment benefits being no closer to getting another job than they were when they first filed for Unemployment. My position was created as an answer to that need—34 Career Brokers throughout my state were hired to bring down those numbers. As soon as I was offered this position, I recognized that this was a major investment the state made, and I had to show a return on that investment.

I met regularly with our office’s other Career Brokers and with our management, and brainstormed ways to identify the long term unemployed, the most efficient means of outreach, and what means would best be used to help the customers we met with. It was a team effort, and we made the most of each of our talents and strong points. Even before rumors of layoffs started circulating, we realized that our positions were precarious, and we maximized our resources to get the job done. We developed a program, fitting our piece in with the other departments in our office, and made the most of our partnerships. Most of all, we communicated everything to our management—successes and shortcomings. When there were shortcomings, we looked for and proposed possible solutions.

When I heard that our jobs were spared, I also found out that our office was about the only one in which they were. Other counties were not so lucky—and the reason, my supervisor told me, was that they had not made a return on the state’s investment. Our local management had petitioned the state leadership to spare our positions, due to the work we were doing and the successes we had achieved.

Lesson Number One: Employers look at who will benefit them the most—and will keep them. Add value to the organization, be efficient and productive.

2.      Work to Increase Your Marketability

When I first entered state employment, I started requesting any and all training I could get my hands on. I learned everything from facilitating job hunter modules, to supervisory skills, to conducting job search reviews for Unemployment Benefits. This allowed me to cross into other areas of our organization as needed, and I was loaned out to other departments regularly to help fill needs that they didn’t have the resources to fill.

This made me much more marketable if I had been at risk for layoff. Instead of being laid off entirely, I could have been moved to another vacant position much easier as I had collected the skills and abilities needed for a wide variety of jobs. I made myself adaptable, and ensured that my personnel file reflected all the training and skills I had collected.

Lesson Number Two: employers will see the value of keeping a person who is willing to learn and grow in their job and will take advantage of their wide variety of skills. They will also appreciate a person who shows initiative and willingness to learn and grow in their position through taking advantage of training, professional development, cross-training and educational opportunities.

3.      Stay Positive and Build Positivity

I had always been a person who seeks a diversion. Our team used to choose a color of clothing to wear on Fridays (since at the time we didn’t have Casual Dress Friday), and the idea caught on. After that, I regularly emailed the entire office with the Color of the Week!

I also proposed the naming of a newly-acquired classroom, in the already-established theme of Washington rivers (we already have a Nisqually River Room, Puyallup River Room, etc). I suggested to our administrator to hold a naming contest. The winner: Chambers Creek (thankfully Skookumchuck River Room didn’t win; we’d need to pay the sign makers overtime).

I also started an End of the Week dance time on Fridays at 4:30. Most people watched and laughed, but everyone enjoyed the spectacle—especially the area director!

Lesson Number Three: employers want to keep morale up. If all else were equal, they would keep the person who keeps things positive.

4.      Keep Busy!

My job has always been important to me, and not just because I like to eat. I believe in the work I do. It is why I get up in the morning. It is even why I write these blogs! It is what fires up my productivity.

At the last job I held, I didn’t work as hard as I do now. I did my job, but I cannot say I put everything I had into it. When layoffs came, I was the first one to be laid off. Part of the decision was naturally that I was the person last hired and therefore the one with the least seniority. But I also came to understand that I was also probably the most logical choice of worker to cut. I didn’t work particularly hard at my job, just drifted along doing what was expected of me and little else.

This is something I have learned from. Since then I make sure that I stay busy. If I finish my work, I help someone else. I show this job is as important to me as I feel it is myself.

Lesson Number Four: Employers are going to look at those who are not pulling their full weight as easy choices to cut.

To sum it up into one small sentence, be the employee that your company needs and they will want to keep you for years to come.


About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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October 2011
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