‘Tis the season.

As companies start new budget years, review staffing plans, realign business units, and assess the skills they need for the coming year… the layoffs begin.

If you’re worried about getting laid off, and if you happen to have a sense that it might be coming, you can take some steps to soften the transition.

First, know that you’re not alone.   Close to 20 million layoffs happen annually in the US, with more in times of economic change.

What do people do after a layoff?  They find other jobs; they start a business; they go back to school; they change paths entirely; they retire or they provide care for family members.

That said, you still have to survive the layoff itself.  Here’s what to do:

Give your all until the final moment.  Don’t slow down your performance if you think the layoff is near; go out on a high note and keep your reputation intact.

– Clear any personal documents off your work computer and move them to a home computer.  While you’re at it, save any performance reviews, portfolio examples, and emails/phone numbers of colleagues or clients you’d like to have as ongoing contacts.

Prepare a short and professional spoken response to the layoff, if and when it comes.   People say all sorts of things when they’re surprised by a layoff, but if you have the time to prepare, try to come up with something that will show your professionalism.   For example, your manager says:  “Bob, I regret to inform you that as of today your position is eliminated.  We are realigning our department and your position is no longer required.  Your last day is today.”

If they’ve already made their decision, there’s no reasoning or arguing your way out of it.  Although many people are tempted either to tell off their boss or clam up and leave quickly, if you’ve prepared something ahead of time, you may be able to be graceful in the moment.   “I’m sorry to hear this; I was excited about our work on (x) initiative, and I wish I could have seen it through.  However, I understand that this is business.  Let me review the separation documents and get back to you with my questions.  (Don’t let them pressure you into signing them on the spot.)  I hope you’ll see me as someone who gave a lot to this organization in the time that I’ve been here.  How will this be communicated to the team?”

Negotiate, if you can.  Here are things you can possibly ask for:

-Longer severance, if they offer any

-Confirm that you will be eligible for unemployment

-Health insurance coverage to be extended and/or paid for during the severance period

-Outplacement (which means career services for you that are paid for by your former employer)- and then, use the service if it’s offered to you

-Your official last day extended until the first of the following month (or the end of the year), but you would be out of the office on severance.  This may help from a resume/job hunt standpoint if you’re still officially on the books as an employee

-Possible consulting work with the company after you leave

-A good reference that highlights what you’ve contributed to the company, or at the very least, an agreement not to give you a negative reference

-To keep your company laptop or cell phone, or your phone number if you’ve used your company cell phone for personal use

-Paid out vacation days (in Massachusetts, it’s a law that you need to be paid for accrued and unused vacation days)

-A bonus that would have come due very shortly, or commission that’s owed to you (this also should be covered by MA law).

Right after the layoff

If you are laid off, we recommend only calling people who will give you personal support, and putting a 48 hour moratorium on professional calls.  We’ve found that if you call a professional contact such as a recruiter or a former boss right after a layoff, the emotion that comes across doesn’t help your job search.  It pays to take the time to gather your thoughts, document your accomplishments, and reach out after a “cooling-off” period where you take care of yourself for a day or two.

Above all, use whatever time you have left before the layoff wisely, so you are ahead of the curve in finding your next gig.