Unemployment Trends: Staying Employed and Dodging Bullets

It's unlikely anyone ever thought the multitasking, multi-skilled workplace would turn into a form of hedge against unemployment, but it has. Modern jobs contain a level of maneuverability and mobility that can be very handy in staying employed. Even when employed, you can shift ground into areas that aren't going to be downsized or laid off, if you have the skills.

The danger signs in any job are:

  • Drop off in demand for work
  • Business downturn in some areas
  • Obvious slack and dead periods in your department
  • Clear industry downturn and downsizing in other companies

To clear up some myths about downsizing and layoffs, know that these are highly selective processes. Downsizing isn't the preferred option in many cases, because it's expensive and reduces capacity for new business. It's only done when it's unavoidable. Employers need a core of experienced staff, because training new people is also expensive and time consuming.

Please note: The best and most reliable staff are the ones employers don't want to lose. Your real employment options are based on those characteristics.

As an employee, you have an advantage. You're in the organization, know the business, and know the roles of other jobs. You can pick up slack and take on new roles, particularly if you're on top of your own work. You're making the point that you're doing more, which is appreciated. That process evolves into a quite different employment situation, which you can use to improve your position.

Using and adding skills to your job

If you've checked out the situation and you know your job is vulnerable, you can move sideways or up if you have the skills. In some cases you can even give yourself a promotion by taking on higher value work. You're upvaluing your status as an employee, and you're also adding value to your CV.

As a broad career principle, this is a major part of adding skills and improving career prospects. If you don't have the required skills you can get them, either through on the job training, volunteering, or formal training (if you haven't been doing this in your job, you should be, whether there are layoffs looming or not).

Dodging the bullets

If you consider your job vulnerable, take action well ahead of any developments. Lateral transfers, acting jobs, higher duties, and even internal job applications are all good ways of avoiding any crisis. During restructuring, the new jobs are definitely the preferred option, because they'll be stable for awhile to come. The alternative is moving to areas which are obviously healthy, and aren't in danger of being restructured.

Again, this requires skill adaptation and doing more work, but it's worth it. You can do this as a form of career progression, too, if you're stuck for promotion prospects and want to qualify for higher jobs. However, dodging bullets is a lot easier if you're not in the target zone.