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How to Prepare for Layoffs Before They Happen

Nick Kolakowski, Dice Insights

December 5, 2022

The headlines seem dominated by layoffs, with tech giants such as Meta and Amazon slashing thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, executives at organizations large and small predict a recession in the future—possibly leading to further cuts. Whether or not you’re feeling vulnerable, now’s a good time to prepare for a potential layoff.

Before we plunge into details, it’s important to note that not everything right now is doom and gloom. Tech unemployment rose just slightly in October, to 2.2 percent, and tech companies actually added 20,700 employees that month (making it the 23rd straight month of job growth). For technology professionals with the right skills, there are job openings for everything from cybersecurity to web development.

If you scan the headlines, you’ll note some key signs often precede layoffs, including:

  • Steep declines in corporate revenues
  • Management shake-ups and infighting
  • Cyclical downsizing
  • Outsourcing announcements
  • Inability to secure more funding

However, these signs aren’t always present—a mercurial billionaire could suddenly buy your company and make spontaneous personnel decisions, for instance. But whatever the case, here are some steps to take before any layoffs hit:

Update Your Resume (and Profiles) Regularly

Yes, it’s annoying to update your résumé and supporting materials. But setting a regular time for updating (once every six months seems to be a good cadence, especially if you frequently jump jobs and/or spin up new projects) can save you a lot of aggravation later.

A steady cadence ensures you’re updating projects and skills while they’re still fresh in your mind, including vital metrics. It also means you can deploy your résumé in a matter of minutes or hours if a job opportunity suddenly appears—and given the speed at which some openings appear (and disappear), you often need to react quickly.

Keep Growing Those Networks

Are you seeing the signs of imminent layoffs? Strengthen your internal network. Boost your connections with your manager and team members; rekindle your valuable contacts throughout the organization. You never know who might need you for a new, layoff-proof project within the organization.

Another benefit of boosting your internal network: If your colleagues leave, they might reach out from their next company to see if you want to work from them.

This advice also applies to your external networks, including friends and former co-workers. Continually engage your support network, both in-person and online. Your network is a vital source for job leads, professional advice, and references. Even if you’re used to remote work, venture forth and have a coffee with career counselors, professors, CTOs, local business leaders, and anyone else who can provide you with the latest on local employment trends and jobs.

Have Your Rainy Day Fund Ready

If the worst happens, you should plan to live off a combination of severance, unemployment and any transitional income for anywhere from three months to a year. Yes, you should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you’re laid off. Yes, you should immediately seek out part-time and contracting work to help ease you through this transition period. There’s absolutely no sense in waiting.

If your severance package includes health and dental, make a point of taking care of any outstanding healthcare issues before it runs out. You might as well squeeze as much as possible from this benefit.

Consider a Career Change

Some technology professionals use a layoff as an opportunity to change disciplines or even careers. If this seems like a tempting proposition, it’ll help to do at least some research on a continual basis. What kinds of skills and experience will you need on your new path?

If you have the time and bandwidth, participate in projects and online discussions related to your potential career change. For example, if you think the next stage of your career is mastering machine learning, start studying how models work, including any open-source repos on GitHub.

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