10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Layoffs Might Be Coming

(U.S. Navy/Maria Dumanlang)

When news starts to circulate around the company that layoffs, downsizing, "reductions in workforce" and financial troubles could be brewing, many employees feel it's in their best interest to immediately seek work elsewhere. But is that always the best strategy?

While you may have had thoughts of exiting the military during your time in uniform when you heard of troop drawdowns or other reductions in force, your loyalty to your military career may have led you to remain in place and ride out the circumstances. 

In these tumultuous economic times, headlines often highlight companies taking more conservative postures. Some companies restructure teams and departments to create more streamlined efficiencies, while other companies implement hiring freezes until the economic uncertainties are resolved. And still other companies rescind job offers as they tighten the corporate belt and prepare for a possible economic recession.

All of this can lead you to consider your own career viability. Before you jump ship, ask yourself these questions:

1. Are You Assessing Your Employer's Situation from Emotion or Fact? 

Has the company issued a formal statement about layoffs, or are changes you anticipate coming through gossip? Before you can decide about what to do next, be clear about what's happening now.

2. Is Your Resume Updated and Current? 

Regardless of what happens next, update your resume to ensure you can either advocate for keeping your current job (if it comes to this) or find new work should you be moving on.

3. Are You Being Asked to Take on New or Different Responsibilities?

The company may be streamlining the workforce to keep critical employees. During times of uncertainty or restructuring, you may be asked to take on a heavier workload or work in new areas. This could indicate the company's strong desire to keep you on.

4. Are Opportunities in Other Companies More Stable?

If you see your company's competitors hiring and growing, perhaps the instability is less about national economic trends and more about business processes. In this case, talking to another employer could secure you a good opportunity before your position is eliminated.

5. Is the Time to Look Now?

This could be the case if you're determined to make a change or are given an indication your position will be eliminated. ... Or will taking some time off provide you with more clarity and direction? 

6. Are the Business Challenges Your Company Is Experiencing Indicating a Trend in the Industry?

For example, during the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, employees in the hospitality industry were being shuttered as businesses were closed (temporarily or permanently). Consider whether you should look at another industry where your skills would be valued, even as a short-term solution.

7. Have You Discussed Your Options with Your Mentor or Advisers? 

If you don't have much civilian work experience, getting guidance from others can help you assess your situation and plan accordingly. 

8. Have You Considered Asking to Be Reassigned to Another Team or Department in the Company? 

Perhaps the projects your team works on are being stalled, but other departments are thriving. Before you leave this employer, consider a lateral move within the same organization to keep resume continuity for now.

9. Is This a Good Time to Go Back to School? 

Maybe you started this job right after the military, and this uncertainty has shown you that you would be happier in another career path. Evaluate your options for taking the time to complete your undergraduate or graduate degree, or advanced certifications and skills to strengthen your career options.

10. Is the Stress of Uncertainty Clouding Your Outlook? 

Not knowing if your position will be eliminated can be overwhelming and frightening. Your income, benefits and footing can feel unstable right now. Despite all the choices you'll need to make and prepare for, take time to breathe, exercise, eat well and practice moderation in your indulgences. You'll need a clear head to think through your options and make the best choices for you and your family currently.

When you can keep a clear view of where you are and what's ahead (to the best of your ability), you can make informed and meaningful decisions. Leaving your current employer may be the best option, but consider all choices before making that move. 

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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