How To Make Yourself More Layoff Proof

Last Friday the U.S. Labor Department announced 533,000 people lost their jobs in November.  This figure represents the largest number of layoffs in a single month in some 34 years.  For those fortunate to remain employed the numbers are a worrying statistic. Will we be next to join the growing number of unemployed?

While there are no guarantees, there are a number of things we can do to make ourselves a little more “layoff proof.” Of course, none of this advice will save your job in the event the company you work for goes belly up, or the industry you are in suffers such extreme losses that your employer’s hand is forced.  Having said that, implementing a few of the strategies below should help to lessen the time you are unemployed and help you quickly get back on your feet.

Make Yourself Layoff Proof

Network with others. One of the very best things you can do, even in good times, is keep in touch with colleagues past and present.  Often the best opportunities are revealed by a close contact rather than an online classified ad. Make an effort to keep in touch with former colleagues periodically via email, or even send a snail mail note with your new business card attached. In the event of a layoff you should contact them and let them know you are currently seeking employment.  If you have maintained a good relationship with contacts, and they are well aware of your skill set, they will be happy to keep an ear to the ground in their organization for any openings.

Find ways to save your company money.  In lean times, one of the best things you can do is find ways to save your company money.  Is there a more efficient way to do things?  Can you develop automation to reduce time and costs for laborious tasks?  Suggest ways to make your company more green.  Be frugal with the company’s money when traveling or entertaining clients.

Learn a new skill. Much like what goes on in the interview and selection process, employers are often faced with making similar tough decisions during rounds of layoffs.  They may have two equally qualified, similarly productive employees facing a layoff.  One employee has considerably more experience in a variety of systems, products or processes.  Who would you let go?  Take advantage of opportunities to diversify the roles you can fill for your employer.  Cross-training is an overused term in the corporate world, but it is important to you as an employee because it builds your internal resume with employers.

Be willing to take on new challenge. Similar to adding to your skill set, willingness to take on a new project at work goes a long way.  People have a tendency to get complacent and settle into a comfort zone at the office, turning down new assignments or sandbagging them by appearing uninterested.  Don’t be that person!  If you are, you’ll be at the top of the list during the next round of layoffs.

Develop a side hustle.  This doesn’t have anything to do with your current job, rather it is a hedge against losing your primary job.  By developing a side hustle you can provide a stream of income in the event you lose your job.  The amount may only represent a fraction of your previous full-time earnings, but it might be the difference between keeping food on the table and the lights on.


  1. One of my favorite tips is an offshoot of “be willing to take on a new challenge.” Take on a project you know your boss is struggling with (whether it’s time or manpower), and just do it yourself. When you come to him/her with a completed project (done well) that he never assigned to you, that’ll be a huge boon for both of you.

  2. The “willing to take on a new challenge” is a big one; the tables may turn in your favor if you can prove something and produce beneficial results for the company and yourself. However, in times like these it may not be as easy as that, but it’s important to be on your toes, since you probably already are. We’ve also got a “5 recession proof ways to get hired” article that relates over at our blog that might be helpful:

  3. Great tips. I’m working on trying to show how much value I have a as writer right now. Professional bloggers find themselves in the position of getting “laid off” as advertisers cut budgets and marketing campaigns pull back.

    On the flip side, though, I’ve been getting other writing work, since I’m cheaper than someone who has to be paid benefits.

  4. A few things to discuss:

    1) “This figure represents the largest number of layoffs in some 34 years.” The largest number of what? Layoffs within a month? Within a week? A fiscal quarter? As large as that number sounds, it represents only about one-half of one-tenth of a percent increase in unemployment. People are laid-off all the time and I would guess that if the numbers lined up right, we could have seen similar numbers happen when the dot com bubble burst and after 9/11. Employment was pretty low at those times as well.

    2) In speaking from experience, there’s not much you can do to prevent being laid-off except to manage your own finances to the best of your ability. It is especially harrowing when you are a “leaf” on the company org chart. Your best bet to “proofing” yourself is to make sure you are an inner branch on the chart and preferably not at the bottom. When it comes down to a company saving money, they tend to cut more recent hires first and those who get paid the most (but are not management). If you fall in there, no amount of cross-training or “doing things to improve the company” will work in your favor. Too bad for you.

    3) I will warn many people now that in my experience (in the tech sector) if you spend time working on a side project and it turns out that someone higher up finds out, they will usually not be happy about it. Chances are they either a) had a similar project already being worked on and you wasted your efforts or b) see the situation in that if you had time to work on the side project, you should have had plenty of time to finish your assigned work much more quickly.

    4) The SIDE HUSTLE. This is about your only way to protect yourself from layoffs. Developing additional income streams means you can survive much better after your main income dries up. It can also possibly help you to expand your network and help you find a new day job.

  5. @DavidK: The 533,000 was the total number of jobs lost in November, and represents the largest one-month decline in 34 years. Sorry, I left out the “one-month” portion of that stat. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Developing a new skill may be the most important. The reason for that is because a lot of companies outsource items. Now because of the times they can’t afford to anymore and are looking to utilize the employees they have in other ways. So for example, basic computer skills or writing skills can be very handy.

  7. We had to close our business in July. I think your list is right on. New challenges is an important one. You feel like a failure and it is hard to get back on track, When you network you find others like you that are willing to help and that you can help.

  8. My best advice would be to make yourself debt-free and financially stable, so that a layoff would have very little affect on you. Practice now being frugal. If I got laid off, my basic monthly expenses are under $400. I have that much coming in in interest and dividends. And I have no debt. Anyone in that situation should be ok.

    2. I agree with making yourself as versatile as possible. My job actually consists of about 5 different jobs thrown into my time space. One facet almost completely dried up due to the price of scrap metals dropping so low, so the boss threw two new types of work at me – and I just caught them and ran. As long as they pay my health insurance, I am a happy employee 🙂

    3. Make yourself unique! Is there some certification, some training, something that only you can do? Some certification that DEQ or EPA etc. requires that only you (within the company) have? This will make you unique and highly valuable. That’s MY ace in the hole (My EPA certificate/license) – even tho that particular facet of my work is not a part I really care for, it’s 3 hrs a week, and it’s my safety net.