If you’ve just been laid off, there are specific things to do. If you want to leave a job, there are other things to do. But what if you like your job and wouldn’t necessarily be looking, except that your company has been laying off in droves? Do you try to hang on or leave as soon as possible?”
You might decide a downsizing is an opportunity to start fresh somewhere else. On the other hand, with many jobseekers flooding the market at the same time, looking for a job now may be extra challenging. If you lobby for a package now, current severance offers may be better than future ones as the company might downgrade its later packages. On the other hand, staying gives you a chance to prove yourself in a difficult situation and brands you as one of the few who survived and thrived.
There is no one answer, so you have to assess the variables specific to your situation and decide what is best for you:
• Do you like your job? Will your job dramatically change in the short-term? What are your long-term prospects if you stay?
• Can you even launch a thoughtful job search now? Do you have an updated resume and other marketing materials? How robust is your network? Do you have a clear sense of what you want in your next role and therefore what you are looking for? Do you have a financial reserve and time allocated to spend on a search?
• How are you perceived in your current company? Who is invested in your career? What moves are these supporters making?
• Media aside, what do you know about your current employer’s condition? Are these problems a temporary blip or the first sign of a protracted downward spiral?
• Can you even get a buyout or severance package? Can you even join the turnaround team?
The questions you need to answer when making a major career move in a down market are really the same ones you need to consider in any market. You need to assess your company’s financial situation, industry performance and your own career prospects, and then you need to make a decision based on all of these constantly changing variables. You need to know what you want and what resources you have in order to change or secure your situation.
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The major difference for these decisions in a down market is that there is a sense of time urgency, as you may get laid off or the company may just fold before you have 100% information. Therefore, answer as many of the above questions now, while you have the time to be introspective, do your research, and prepare (your resume, your emergency savings, your network). Then, if you need to make this decision sooner than you planned, you can at least make the best decision for you.
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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
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