23 Signs you’re about to lose your job

job hunt laid off layoff Nov 24, 2020

“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” – Colin Powell

“I just wish I’d seen it coming.”

If I had a dime for every time someone has said that to me over the years …

And guess what: I am one of them! On the heels of the .com bubble burst, I got laid off from a job I absolutely loved. I should have seen it coming. I should have put a little more money in the bank. I should have pulled my resume together and fired up my network ahead of time. Instead, I tried to stay positive. I saw the layoffs happening around the world and inside my company, yet told myself “I have the #1 team in the company. They won’t let me go! I’m too valuable.” I leaned in and I worked even harder, trying to prove to my boss and company that I was critical to their success. I helped with other divisions. I inspired everyone around me to work harder. At the end of the day, I was expendable. Revenues were down so far that the company had no choice but to cut deep into the employee base. And I got my walking papers.

I was shocked. I was hurt. And for many weeks, I was frozen and unable to do anything productive in my job search beyond surfing the web and submitting my resume to jobs I KNEW I would not get simply by applying online.  

I desperately wish I had taken just a few small steps BEFORE the layoff. It would have helped me immensely from an emotional, financial and job search effectiveness standpoint.

PS - We have a course that we build to help people just like you: Laid Off. Now What.

And so, here is my wish for you: face the reality that things are REALLY tough out there for your company right now. And take some steps to get ready now.

For some of you, the writing is on the wall in big, bright, bold letters. For many more, however, things are not so clear about the future of their employer. You’ve got courageous leaders and coworkers who are fighting every day right now to pivot, reinvent, and push through these challenging times. Everyone is “all in” … and that’s a beautiful thing. However, sometimes being “all in” is simply not enough.

The problem with waiting to see what happens

Most layoffs happen quickly, and if you don’t see them coming they can knock the wind out of your career sails … financially and emotionally. If you’re not ready for a potential job loss, it can take months to get your bearings are run an effective job search. The good news is, there are some very common signs you can look for and see one heading your way. Plus, there are 7 concrete steps you can take today to dramatically reduce the negative impact of a job loss.

The solution

Sometimes, staff reductions are a surprise to middle managers, too. So, just because your amazing boss says “everything is fine” doesn’t mean it is. If something feels “off” to you, take notice. Ask questions. Walkthrough the list of signs below. If you see just one thing happening, it’s probably no big deal. But if you start to see three or four of these things happening simultaneously, it’s time to start asking your boss some hard questions … and get your resume up to date.  We have a course that should be part of your solution: Laid Off. Now What.

23 signs you’re about to get laid off

  1. Revenues are heading in the wrong direction. If sales and revenues are down significantly, that’s a very good sign of an upcoming “RIF” (reduction in force, right-sizing, down-sizing or re-organization).
  2. Your industry is not doing well. Most people in the housing market saw it heading south before it crashed, yet very few people took action before the layoffs came.
  3. Your company’s performance is down. Whether private or public, you don’t have to look hard to see when a company is struggling. If you hear things like “lower profits” or “missed targets” you should sit up and take notice.
  4. There are a lot of closed-door management meetings … and you are not invited. You know your boss’ work style. If he or she is making frequent trips to HR or closes his door to take phone calls when he never used to do that, take notice.
  5. Your boss has suddenly become standoffish and unresponsive. Managers are people, too. When they’re about to cut staff, they might find it hard to look you in the eye or maintain a chipper attitude.
  6. You’re hearing rumors about a reorganization or consolidation. Even if they are unfounded, rumors are a sign that something is off.
  7. Your company did just restructure, and you’re under a new boss.
  8. Your boss asks you to create a bunch of business process documentation that he’s never wanted in the past.
  9. Your boss asks you to document your own role and responsibilities. That is a very strong sign he’s under pressure to consolidate people.
  10. The company just reduced its office space.
  11. Your company has just been bought, or it just acquired another company. Any time two companies come together, there are duplications of people, systems and divisions that need to be eliminated.
  12. A hiring freeze is in effect.
  13. The company has started slashing expenses, and they’ve stopped providing milk and creamer.
  14. Your company has started outsourcing major departments. Once the company realizes how much money they can save through outsourcing, other divisions are usually going to follow soon.
  15. There’s a new boss in town. Any time a new boss comes in, you can expect to see changes in people and processes. Your job might be one of those changes.
  16. Your work travel has been canceled or put on hold, without a clear explanation.
  17. Your last performance review was ho-hum. That’s never good, and it could be a sign that you’ll be in the first wave of layoffs.
  18. Your performance reviews were always held on a regular basis, but yours just got put on hold.
  19. You were just asked to cross-train a coworker (or a consultant who just started working there) on your main job functions. When this happens, smile and say “Absolutely. I’d be happy to, but I’d like to know why. What does this mean for me and my job here?” Most managers will break down at that point and tell you the truth. It won’t be easy to hear, but the sooner you can find it out, the better.
  20. There are new “management consultants” or “efficiency consultants” in town. Folks like this specialize in helping struggling businesses operate more efficiently and profitably. When they start asking you about what you do and how you do it, consider yourself warned.
  21. A major project was just put on hold. Shifting priorities is nothing new, but when a high-priority project suddenly falls off your list, something is going on. If you cannot get a clear answer as to why it’s time to update your resume.
  22. There is a sudden focus on short-term projects versus long-term planning. This is a good sign staff cuts are coming and/or that your company is getting ready to be sold.
  23. Your boss just updated her LinkedIn profile and has been networking aggressively.

What to do today (how to protect yourself)

The best thing you can do is watch for the signs, and take steps to look for your next job before you lose the one you’ve got. Keep your resume up to date, get and stay active on LinkedIn and capture every single one of your success stories (including metrics) as you go along in your career. Layoffs can be a real blow to your ego, and one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to capture the things that make you great before you have to sell yourself to your next employer. Those success stories will help you keep your confidence up, write a great resume, and be a real stand-out in your next job interview.

Getting laid off isn’t easy, but if you take action early it will feel like you just hit a bump in the road (instead of getting run into the ditch). I promise.

- Cat

PS - A lot of people just like you have signed up for our course: Laid Off. Now What.