Layoffs in My Industry: Is My Company Next?

By Paula Santonocito

Q. Recently, there have been a lot of layoffs in my industry. So far, my company hasn’t cut any workers, but I’m worried. Is my job at risk?

A. Some industries have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Among them are automobile manufacturing, construction, and financial services, especially mortgage lending.

But it’s not only core industries that have cut large numbers of jobs. True, automakers like Ford and BMW make headlines when they lay off workers. However, there is generally a ripple effect related to job cuts. Companies that make automobile parts have also trimmed their workforces. Continental AG, Europe’s second-largest tire maker, for example, recently announced as many as 2,000 jobs will be eliminated.

Similarly, the housing meltdown has meant fewer construction jobs, but companies that supply products, among them retailers like Home Depot, have also let workers go.

So, yes, industries do go through slumps and the effect can be far-reaching. And, unfortunately, when several companies in a given industry cut jobs other employers tend to follow, especially when issues are industry-wide.

The airline industry has been struggling amid record high fuel costs, for example, and, in recent weeks, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Air Canada, US Airways, and Delta have all announced layoffs.

Unfortunately, there is sometimes a copycat mentality with regard to layoffs. Even when a particular company isn’t experiencing the difficulties of its competitors, it may jump on the cost-reduction bandwagon and attempt to save money by slashing jobs.

Will your company be among those in your industry letting workers go? It depends on how widespread the problems in your industry are, how those issues have affected your company, and your organization’s structure, as well as its management philosophy.

Meanwhile, don’t sit back and hope for the best. Although it can be extremely stressful, wondering and worrying about potential layoffs doesn’t serve you well; you need to put your focus elsewhere. Here’s how:

Concentrate on doing your job to the best of your ability. While engaged in your daily tasks, look for opportunities to make a greater contribution. Let your boss know you’re willing to help with a new project, for example. If a coworker is out sick for an extended period of time, ask if there’s anything critical that requires attention during her absence. In other words, make yourself more valuable.

Assess your skills and update your resume. Maybe you’ve only worked in your current industry, but your skills and experience are most likely transferable to other environments. Consider hot fields, like health care and technology. If you’re not ready to make a change, still take a look at online job listings to find out what’s available. If nothing else, it will reassure you that opportunities exist.

Finally, if you find yourself unemployed as a result of company layoffs, recognize that it probably isn’t about you. Job cuts are likely related to a company- or department-wide reorganization, and therefore beyond your control.

Even if your job ends up a casualty of restructuring, your career doesn’t have to be derailed by one employer’s decision. By adopting the right attitude, you’ll find yourself better able to adapt.

Have a question? Email Paula here .

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