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Holidays is a time for festivity, celebration, and, happiness.
Yet, there’s one thing that I’ve seen a lot during the holidays, especially at the end of the year.
That is layoffs, unemployment, tears, fears, and sadness.
Why do companies usually lay off employees at the end of the year, you may ask.
One reason is that companies close their books at the end of the year and want to lay off employees they don’t want to hire/pay in the new year.
In fact, at the end of 2018, I thought I would soon lose my job if not before Christmas then soon after January 1 of 2019.
And let me tell you, it was stressful.
I lived in fear for most of 2019, not knowing when I would be called into an office and be given that severance package if there was any.
You might wonder why I just didn’t try to get a new job so that I wouldn’t face unemployment once laid off. And I did.
But the biggest hurdle for me was that I was on a work visa in the US, meaning that my legal status in America was tied to my employer.
If I lost my job, I would leave the US within 30 days of unemployment. And it was hard for me to find an employer who would be willing to sponsor my work visa.
In 2019, while living in fear of being laid off, I implemented some plans I thought would help with my situation.
I know you might not want to hear about unemployment. But it is indeed what a lot of us are facing. I want to share with you what I did to prepare myself for the layoff, and I hope that it might help you if you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Try to do better at your job
I think companies generally lay off people who no long provide as much value to them as they expected or who are under-performing.
Instead of sitting idly at my desk, feeling sad and waiting for the bad news, I talked to my boss about how to undertake more responsibilities and I also tried to finish my work fast and with the best quality possible. I always made myself available to help others, especially when it was relevant to my job.
2. Apply for another position at your company
If you like the company or are legally tied to your employer, you can apply for another position at the same company.
Talk to your colleagues in other departments, make small talk with them, ask about their job to see if it’s a good fit for you. Oftentimes, they will be the same people who interview you for that very position, so it’s good to build rapport with them.
I talked to my colleagues in other groups to see if there were any openings I wanted to apply to. I did apply to another position in another group but didn’t get the job due to my lack of experience.
I then tried to talk to my colleagues to see if there was any training or smaller tasks I could undertake to gain experience.
3. Apply externally
If applying internally is not an option, you should start looking externally. Some of the job boards I checked were LinkedIn, Indeed.com, and straight out just Googling the job titles I’m interested in.
I also set my status on LinkedIn as interested in new opportunities and was contacted by a number of recruiters. You can start connecting with people you know or just cold messaging people on LinkedIn.
I tried all of those methods and started getting interviews right away. But most recruiters just got turned off once I mentioned the need for a work visa.
4. Change your career
If you are passionate about what you do, that’s great. However, if you have been thinking about changing careers, then maybe this is a good time.
For me, I discovered coding in early February 2019 and started learning how to code while holding my full-time job and taking care of a family.
You might be thinking you are too busy to try another career path, and that’s ok. For me, it was almost like a life or death situation, so I prioritized my daily activities.
After I started coding, I rarely watched YouTube/movies or checked social media anymore. I reasoned that if I had time to watch YouTube videos, listen to music, or check Facebook’s feeds, it meant that I had time to study. And I prioritized studying.
I believe that if you really want something badly enough, you will make time for it.
Another important plan you need to have no matter whether you are single or married is increasing your savings and lowering your expenses.
If you are single, you might not have a partner to support you financially. Even if you are married, you might need to adjust your family’s expenses to prepare for going down to one income.
Below are some of the things you can do to prepare yourself financially for a layoff:
House-hacking is when you rent out part of your living space for extra rent. If you are single and live in a two-bedroom, you can rent out that extra bedroom you keep for storage or for guests.
You can make an extra $500-$1,000/mo depending on where you live. You can find a roommate on Craigslist for longer term leases or find tenants on AirBnB for shorter-term stays.
Even if you are married, you can still rent out your basement or living room for a short period of time to build up your emergency fund.
2. Do side hustles
You can also start looking into side jobs that can help quick money. However, I would caution taking on jobs that are too time-consuming and don’t pay well.
Instead, you can invest in training and getting certifications that can make you more marketable on the job market and give you a salary bump.
You can also start a long-term side business that can generate passive income such as blogging. Click here to check out my step-to-step guide on how to start a blog that can make you money.
3. Limit eating out
When Mr. FAF and I eat out, we usually spend $30-50 on one meal, including tip. That amount of money can last us for a couple of days if we buy groceries and cook once for a couple of days.
If meal planning is not your forte, you can also try Erin Chase’s $5 meal plans where she will send you detailed meal plans via email together with a list of ingredients to buy.
4. Reduce expenses that are not necessities
These include using cable (you can switch to Netflix or Hulu), magazine subscriptions, buying new clothes/accessories, etc. It might sound like deprivation for you, but when you are in fear of losing your job, having more money in your emergency fund will put your mind at ease at the end of the day.
For more tips on reducing expenses, you can check out my posts below:
For me, 2019 was a year of living in fear. I turned my fear into determination and motivation to work harder and prepare for a career change to tech. I ended up getting a bonus and a promotion at my job. My boss indicated that I would still be able to keep my job next year.
Mr. FAF and I also got a green card at the end of 2019, so even if I lose my job now, I can apply for another one without worrying about the visa sponsorship. Although I can keep my job, I’m still preparing for a career change when the timing is right.
Through this process, I realized that nothing lasts forever, and that I need to keep my options open when it comes to job opportunities.
At the end of the day, no matter how passionate you are about the company’s mission or work, if companies no longer need you for whatever reason, you can easily be laid off.
Below are my lessons learned from this experience:
— Do your best at your job and try as hard as you can to add value to your employer.
— Keep a good relationship with your colleagues since they might be the one giving you a job in the future.
— Keep your options open and never stop networking with others by going to events and Meetup groups.
— Look for ways to add extra income to your situation while never losing sight of your full-time job until you can call it quit.
— Reduce expenses that are not necessities and build up your emergency fund.
I hope you will never find yourself in the situation that I was. And even if you do, I hope you will come out ahead because you have much more potential than what your job can define you.