06/17/2010 11:20 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Do I Hang Onto My Job When Layoffs Loom?

Dear Liz,

I have been at my job for seventeen years, eight years in one position and now nine years in my current role. We've had two rounds of layoffs here, and I'm hoping to hang onto my job for two or three more years because it would be extremely inconvenient for me to job-hunt while my husband is starting a business. Also, we have two kids in college and I'd like to get them graduated before thinking about a new job. Any tips for hanging onto my job as more layoffs come down the pike? One round of layoffs has been announced for this summer and more may come in the fall.



Dear Carrie,

It used to be that seventeen or twenty years in one job was a huge asset. Things have reversed today. It is hard to convince a new employer that we are full of ideas and creative thinking after spending twenty years in one shop. If you can afford to be off work for a few months, I'd try to get in on those upcoming layoffs, especially if the severance packages are decent (three or four months of pay, or more). The longer you stay in your job, the tougher the transition may be.

Every day on the job, I'd spend an hour on yourself -- that is, on your career. It doesn't always matter how fantastic a job you do, when layoffs are imminent. If your role is cut, you're gone, even if you top your manager's list of A-level performers. Whether you stay or go, I'd spend a ton of mental energy (starting today!) thinking about your passions, your talents, how you've made a difference for your current employer, what your next career chapter could look like, and what the market for people like you is like outside your company walls.

Here are ten Career Altitude suggestions to get you going. My tips aren't intended to help you survive a layoff at your company, but rather to get you into a career-altitude mode that will serve you whether you stick around on your job or move to something new.


  • Decide who you are, professionally. (I'm not talking about the titles you've already held or the one you hold now. I'm talking about your professional brand.) What is your professional identity? What problem do you solve for employers or clients?
  • Create a LinkedIn profile that articulates your direction and your power. Get your career history in there, write a conversational Summary, connect to your friends on LinkedIn and get your LinkedIn learning curve under way.
  • Write your Human-Voiced resume. Write two or three of them, if you've got several professional 'prongs' that each requires its own branding materials.
  • Mobilize your network. You don't have to be job-hunting, to do this. That's the biggest problem for employed people -- they let their networks languish! Get out there for lunches, coffees, drinks after work, walks around the lake on the weekends ... once per week, minimum!
  • Gather your stories. In which specific situations have you felt your power at work? Make a list of story-prompters for yourself. Include a story about overcoming adversity, a story about working with difficult people, a story about changing on a dime, a story about learning from a mistake, a story about trying something brand new, a story about working on a team and a story about taking charge of a project.
  • Research the market. Get on and start looking at job openings there to get a feel for the ways your talents would fit with the roles employers are looking to fill.
  • Do your salary research. Use and to see what people are getting paid in the positions you'd be investigating if you weren't working right now.
  • Start a journal. There's nothing like journaling to bring out the ideas, hopes, schemes, forgotten wishes and power stories from your past and your future.
  • Talk to your friends about your next chapter, and ask for their advice. Thinking about moving your energy away from "I must hang onto my job" toward "What is next for me?- it could be exciting!" Hanging onto things is fear-based, and looking expectantly toward the future is trust-based. Your power will never come through while you're praying for something (your employment status) not to change. The universe wants to change!
  • Apply for a job outside your company. You're getting back on the horse after years away, so don't want until you're unemployed to get into practice. You don't have to accept the job, of course.

Keep us posted, Carrie!