Working Strategies: A pre-layoff checklist

What should you do when you suspect a layoff is imminent? A lot of advice focuses on working harder to keep your job. While that is not a bad idea, I have a feeling it may be too little, too late.

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Take stock

  • Survey work arrangement and identify what access you would lose. If your workplace uses key cards, you will not be able to enter the building. Your passwords will likely be disabled and you will not be able to use your computer or voice mail at the office. That means no access to your e-mail address book and contact information.
  • Itemize your company-issued equipment. What would you need to return?
  • Review your company-sponsored benefits. Health insurance is the big item; other things to look at include disability and life insurance, professional subscriptions and memberships, and health club memberships.

Reallocate resources

  • Stop using your work computer to store personal documents. Print or e-mail to your personal account the items that matter to you. Remember that the work you’ve completed for the company does not belong to you. On the other hand, unless it’s highly confidential, your work does belong in your portfolio, so go ahead and capture representative samples of your projects.
  • Stop using your work-issued cell phone to store contact information. Duplicate your info into something more permanent, such as an address book.
  • Where feasible, disentangle yourself from company benefits.
  • Rethink company-based investments.

Act as if layoff is imminent

  • De-personalize your work space. Take home the things that really matter to you.
  • Scrub your files. Consider what might be on your company-issued laptop or work computer that really shouldn’t be there, then take it off.
  • Collect your co-workers’ non-company contact information. Remember that they may get laid off, too.
  • Make use of company programs while you can. Does your workplace offer tuition reimbursement or conference registration? You need those things. Now. However busy you think you are, don’t miss the opportunity to upgrade your skills or broaden your knowledge in your field. Those are your stepping stones to the next job.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm. Contact her at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

One comment Add your comment


July 19th, 2009
7:54 am

I have to agree with this article. Once you start to suspect something (if you do), there probably isn’t much you can do. And asking your manager, etc., to be straight with you is a waste of time. They aren’t going to tell you ahead of time, even if they want to.

Focus your energies on doing the steps above, AND shoring up your resume, work portfolio and letting your personal network know that you are looking.

For others: Just don’t keep all that personal stuff at work anyway. ITunes accounts (!), personal documents and photos, contacts, etc., don’t belong on your work computer. Lots of cute “stuff” on your desk, etc., is just more stuff you might have to pack. Or worse, they herd you out the door and tell you they will pack your things for you and send them to you. Why risk getting something stolen or broken? Keep a couple of photos and leave it at that.

Once I land somewhere, I do plan to keep the “spirit” of my layoff with me. No personal stuff on work computers, cell phones and laptops. I plan on keeping my personal phone and using only my work cell phone if I obtain one for work. And I will keep nothing at the office that can’t fit into a paperbox.