Your Career Q&A: Preparing for Layoffs

By Martin Yate Mar 8, 2016
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This week’s column has tips on preparing for company layoffs. Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I’m a senior HR director in the oil and gas industry (O&G), and I believe I might be caught up in the next round of company layoffs. If this happens, I plan to take a short sabbatical (spend time with family, travel, volunteer). I also think I’ll take a class or two to brush up on skills that I haven’t fully used in my current role, such as project leadership, strategic planning and financial management. My question is whether I need to validate taking time off? Since I believe the market will remain volatile until late this year, I plan to do contract work and consulting after my sabbatical and prior to a serious job search. Will that make it appear that I can’t get a job and make me a less desirable candidate later?

The situation is going to take at least a year to work itself out, and once it does, who really knows what is going to be the face of O&G in America?

Anonymous in Houston

I hope you are wrong about the layoffs, but preparing for the worst is a much smarter approach than hoping for the best and being caught job hunting with 500 of your closest friends. You ask about the face of O&G in America a year from now. I spent a lot of time in Texas and Oklahoma when O&G tanked in 1980-83. I saw it come back, and I am sure it will this time, as well, but it will likely take more than a year to rebalance—although you shouldn’t postpone the job search until such recovery is complete.

What I like most about your plan is the types of professional development courses you plan to take (project leadership, strategic planning and financial management) and how they very cleverly support both short- and long-term career strategy. Skill development in these areas is helpful to any professional core career, but your choices are especially smart because they are equally supportive of entrepreneurial endeavors.

Age and wage discrimination starts to kick in for everyone around age 50—you know we can’t deny it. Given these considerations, every professional working today who looks at the challenges of lifespan career management can see that learning to bring money in your own front door through entrepreneurial effort is a sure path to long-term economic security.

Consequently, your plans for project leadership, strategic planning and financial management skill development will serve to make you more desirable to the Seven Sisters of O&G, while simultaneously building critical skills for your entrepreneurial future. That this all ties in with getting your feet wet with some contract work tells me that you could have a grip on the issues that impact long-term economic security.

All good news, but allow me to save you heartache by sharing how others mismanage the layoff packages that allow them breathing room:  All too often, a serious job search is postponed until any settlement money is running out. The search then has difficulty finding traction because the resume doesn’t work and you discover that working in HR doesn’t necessarily mean you understand a darn thing about job search in the digital era.

I would advise bringing your job search skills up to speed, developing your networks and building a new resume sooner rather than later. The learning process will give you time to build your contacts while alerting you to any potential problems at a time when you can do something about them without the added pressure of money worries.

Unemployment is definitely perceived as a negative, but you offset this when you have been polishing professional skills and keeping current with contract work. Throw in a properly prepared resume and intelligent job search strategy, and you should be able to execute your search in a timely manner.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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