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How to take charge and minimise pain before getting retrenched

This article is more than 12 months old

If your job is in danger due to the Covid crisis, make a plan to bounce back

Bleak as it sounds, if you are one of those in a vulnerable position, preparing for a retrenchment letter and cost-cutting measures is the smart thing to do amid the Covid-19 crisis and economic aftershocks.

Getting laid off does not have to be a horrible experience if you take charge of the situation.

Readying yourself for the fallout is the most powerful thing you can do. And if the chop doesn't happen, then you have just taken proactive steps to empower your life.

Get your house in order

With more time at home, devote a couple of evenings to straightening out your affairs.

Consolidate all your debt and look into low-interest options to pay it off, explore re-financing or deferring your mortgage or car loan, and perhaps cut your wardrobe budget till you need it again. Imagine if you are out of work for three to six months.

How much do you actually need to live? Detail it with a budget worksheet.

Put that emergency fund together

This can be anything from three to six months of your living expenses, stashed away, preferably in a high-interest savings account.

Claw whatever spare cash you have together, look at trimming your spending for the next few months and focus on cooking more and enjoying free/low-cost activities.

Being cautious now will pay off in the long run when you are safe in the knowledge that you have a robust fund to fall back on and stop you from making decisions out of fear.

Sweat the small details

If you have caught wind of impending cuts at your workplace, your best defence is knowledge.

As insensitive as it sounds, try to find out what type of severance was served to past colleagues. To better your negotiating chances, get familiar with your employment compensation terms.

Depending on your agreement and time served (usually two years and up), you may or may not be entitled to retrenchment benefits - some even extend medical benefits for a period of time - which can range from two weeks to a month for each year employed.

Also, if your salary has been reduced before being let go, it is the salary before the cut that is used to decide the amount of compensation.

Plus, your employer is still on the hook for all unused annual leave, notice pay and office-related expenses incurred - so do not sign anything until all these have been reflected and agreed upon.

Rework your resume and skills

If you have been at your current job for more than three years, chances are your resume is in need of a spruce-up.

Rework it into a modern format, drop the long cover letter, and instead focus on reflecting your current skill set and mastery of industry trends.

If you are in need of upskilling, utilise your SkillsFuture credits, browse courses on LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare and Google Digital Academy and get cracking.

When you are done, think of other ways to boost your professional profile.

Offer your services pro bono, think of thought leadership topics you can weigh in on, and maybe finally sign up for that remote conference that just got a lot cheaper.

Craft a detailed handover

Whether you are retrenched or fired, all bosses will expect a proper handover.

While you can use the excuse that it is no longer your responsibility, it is the last bargaining chip you'll have.

A handover outlining your job scope, responsibilities and how-tos will speak volumes about your professionalism.

Doing so also alleviates the load left on your remaining team members, who will no doubt go on to sing your praises and may even refer you to your next job.

Tying up loose ends also ensures a positive reference and the perfect segue to ask for a glowing LinkedIn endorsement at your exit interview.

Get busy networking

With most people working remotely, you now have a legitimate excuse to network during office hours.

Sign up for industry-related webinars, organise Zoom drinks with old teammates, or just read, intelligently comment and follow posts on LinkedIn by key thought leaders.

You will be surprised at how fast all this will boost your social presence and with that broaden your network.

Declutter your work station

Do not leave things till the last minute where instead of saying fond goodbyes you are scrambling to download personal photos off your office-issued laptop.

Start saving important files - presentations for future reference, key documents, training files, performance reviews, pay slips - and deleting all personal ones that should not be housed on a work device in the first place.

Needless to say, curating your contact database should be a top priority - you never know who you could be working alongside soon.

This article was first published in Her World Online (