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Ask Chuck: Preparing for a Layoff

by Chuck Bentley December 27, 2019

Dear Chuck, 

I’m worried about a layoff next year. If we have a recession, I am likely to be the first one out the door. What can I do to be prepared? 

Preparing for a Layoff


Dear Preparing for a Layoff, 

There is a great deal in your question that I can relate to. Having been through a corporate layoff in my prior career in the oil and gas industry, I am aware of the fear and stress that go along with facing an unknown future. However, contrary to you, I was not prepared. 

Downsizing, reorganizations, and mergers are part of life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics for August, 2019 indicates that the average length of unemployment is 22.1 weeks  ( just under 6 months) and 20.6% of the unemployed were out of work for 27 weeks or more.  This fact alone should give you a strong indication of how to get prepared if a layoff and/or recession does occur in 2020.

God can be fully trusted, despite a possible layoff. He will be there for you even if things seem out of control. Keep an eternal perspective, prepare and walk in faith.

Just in Case

Prepare now to minimize stress.

  • Do what you can to prove your value to your manager. Document contributions. 
  • Don’t participate in office gossip or rumors. 
  • Keep a positive attitude. Work hard and serve others.
  • Update your resume.
  • Make sure recruiters have your correct contact information.
  • Begin a passive job search. 
  • Do not use company computers, phones, networks, or search Google in seeking a job. Never search from your current place of employment.
  • Expand your network. 
  • Improve yourself.
  • Build your interview skills.
  • Postpone large purchases, vacations, and anything that is not necessary
  • Go to a “needs” based budget – food, shelter, transportation, utilities, creditors, childcare.
  • Get covered medical needs taken care of now: check-ups, glasses, contacts etc.
  • Understand HSA and FSAs.
  • Build your emergency fund.
  • Prepare to pack important possessions. Copy work samples, performance reviews, and key documents. Transfer your contacts to a personal computer. 
  • If needed, refinance loans while employed because banks will hesitate if you are unemployed.
  • Negotiate your bills and expenses. Example: bundle or find discounts for insurance. Consider temporarily dropping unnecessary expenses — things like cable. 

If a Layoff Occurs

Don’t take it personally, unless you brought it upon yourself. If you did, learn from your mistakes! Romans 8:28 says, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He may be moving you into something far better than you ever imagined. 

  • Request and read all contracts and documents you signed when you were hired. 
  • Make sure you get paid for any accrued benefits, unused vacation days, or money owed.
  • Know your unemployment benefits. Will healthcare be subsidized? How long? COBRA? HSA while claiming unemployment? 
  • Verify what happens to other benefits like life or long-term care insurance and 401 (k).
  • Get copies of key documents, performance records, and work samples.
  • Get contact information: payroll, HR, benefits contacts, and potential references.
  • Negotiate a severance package.
  • Don’t burn bridges. Aim to maintain your work relationships. 
  • Reach out to contacts.
  • Contact creditors. Ask the hardship department for a reduced interest rate.
  • Temporarily stop contributing to retirement and savings and build your emergency fund.
  • Make and live on a “needs only” budget.
  • Don’t panic, be humble, stay involved in your church body.
  • Pray, look for God’s provision, be patient and give thanks.

Temporarily, most people can reduce their expenditures substantially without a major reduction in lifestyle. It just requires some planning: being patient, avoiding quick financial decisions, and never spending money you don’t have even when you have available credit. It means tithing faithfully, avoiding get-rich schemes, and sticking to a budget. Those who have surrendered their finances to God also experience His faithfulness. 

Pray for peace and contentment during this time. Go on a spending fast and cut all unnecessary expenses. Sell what you don’t need. Ignore the media and renew your mind with Biblical truth. Enjoy creation, spend time with friends & family. Seek simplicity and be thankful. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1: 2-4 ESV) 

Don’t Worry

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 8:7 that no man knows the future.  As much as we may think we know what will happen next year, we truly do not know will happen in the next moment.  Worry involves looking to the future and projecting unpleasant events that may or may not occur. The truth is, you and I do not know if there will be a recession next year or if you will be laid off.  We do know that we are to live prepared for the future but keep our thoughts on today because this is all we have. 

As I look back on the layoff that I experienced, God used it for my good, especially the lessons I learned from the pain of being unprepared. You are wise to be looking ahead and ready should it happen, now you can rest and enjoy each day that you have regardless of what tomorrow will bring. 

Read more about preparing for economic hardship in The S.A.L.T. Plan, a practical guide I wrote about carefully planning for hard times, and how to increase your faithfulness with your God-given resources.


Originally posted on the Christian Post, December 27, 2019.

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