Here's What You Should Do If You Lose Your Job
Several thoughts are likely darting through your mind as you’re reading this. You’re probably bored with a self-diagnosed case of borderline cabin fever, for one. But more than anything else, you’re thinking about the coronavirus.
We don’t blame you; as I’m writing this story, the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus Disease Dashboard says thare are now over 230,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in over 177 countries with 9,840 deaths. Without doubt, we all have reason to be mindfully concerned.
But there are a number of trailing factors to this disease that are less immediate and, for some people, might just be as worrying. Global stock markets have tanked because of expectations of company earnings going down. Take another step and one can’t help but ask: if companies are losing money, does it make sense that scores of employees might soon be losing their jobs?
In the U.S., a Reuters story quoted economists who said that over two million job applications could be filed this week as people who work for restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses suddenly find themselves out of work because of the coronavirus.
Closer to home, the Department of Finance reports that the state-run pension fund is ready to shell out P1.2 billion under a worst-case scenario, in which as many as 60,000 of its premium-paying members lose their jobs in the months ahead and apply for unemployment benefits.
While that goes through our heads, it wouldn’t hurt to ask: under what circumstances can I be removed from employment? And what should I do if this does indeed happen?
When, legally speaking, can I be fired?
The Department of Labor and Employment clarifies this in D.O. 147-15: “Just causes of termination refer to serious misconduct, willful disobedience or insubordination, gross and habitual neglect of duties, fraud or willful breach of trust, loss of confidence, commission of a crime or offense, and analogous causes.”
This is probably not as relevant to most of us citizens of the new, pajama-wearing, un-showered, clean-handed society of the times. More appropriate would be the authorized causes of termination, which refer to the “installation of labor-saving devices, redundancy, retrenchment or downsizing, closure or cessation of operation, and disease.”
Our takeaway: in the case that one’s company is severely impacted financially, the employer may be authorized—and may not have a choice but—to terminate employees.
Under normal circumstances, what could you do to avoid it?
To answer this question, we turn to Jo Ann Rosary O. Asetre, managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison Philippines, a global name in talent development and career transition services.
For starters, Asetre suggests having “the mindset of lifetime employability, not lifetime employment.” Indeed, she says the idea is to focus on the bigger picture of a lifetime of work rather than the current job one is in. She cites the following proactive measures:
Read and stay updated
Aside from keeping up-to-date with the news, Asetre advises using the internet to gather information on trends affecting industry and profession. “Follow initiators and influencers on social media, sign up on discussion boards, and join groups,” she says.
Take the initiative and meet the right people
Asetre recommends coming out of your shell by attending conferences and joining professional organizations relevant to your career.
“Select one skill that will be required for your future success and taking a class and/or reading on the topic,” she says. After doing that, set the goal to learn the skill and look for mentors that can gently, or authoritatively, help you along.
Get your finances in order
Though trying times have you treating yourself more decadently than usual, taking the time to plot your savings against your expenses is always a good idea—even if that just means getting an idea of where your available cash is going.
The toughie: What can you do if you do lose your job?
According to Asetre, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies, business process outsourcing (BPO) units, and banks have been laying off employees with more regularity in recent months
Ryan Bingham, the corporate downsizer played by George Clooney in the 2009 movie Up in the Air comes to mind. In the film, there is a montage of employee reactions to Bingham’s big reveal that they had been declared redundant—a brutal slog through what must have been ubiquitous during the U.S.’s last recession. One can’t help but soften as the characters go through the negative human emotions in such a scenario, which Asetre confirms is common: worrying about loss of income, stressing about job-hunting, feelings of disappointment and failure, and a loss of self-esteem.
At the summit of this emotional mountain, Asetre proffers the following bits of advice in case the company lets you go: (This supposes, of course, that the reasons for your dismissal are legitimate and fair):
Feel all the emotions, but work your way around them
“Express your emotions as you feel them,” Asetre says. “Cry if you need to. Talk when you need to, perhaps to a qualified counselor as well as friends and family.”
But then, bring yourself around to moving forward. “Start listing the things you have accomplished in your past jobs,” she adds, pointing out that this will do more than just prop your self-esteem up. “Your prospective employers would love to hear them. Your accomplishments are among your most important selling points.”
Keep your circle close
“Prepare your communication strategies before announcing it to external parties,” Asetre says. Furthermore, keep the emotional language for use with those whom you trust the most—family and close friends. She suggests saving the hunt for contacts for “[after] you have thoroughly viewed your situation.”
Comb through ideas for work
Asetre advises that you pursue and make use of different sources of ideas for job leads or entrepreneurship ventures. “Read newspapers, books and magazines; consider joining training programs or talking to experts,” she says. That being said, she urges that you remain nimble and open to varied job prospects.
Take care of yourself, but don’t blow the severance package
Exercise, eat a balanced diet, and try to get enough sleep. Anything to set your mental health up for positivity. Asetre tempers this by saying, “Don’t spend your severance package on not-so-important items or reasons, like buying a car or a cell phone, renovating your home or taking a vacation.”
These are extraordinary times. Each person’s experience at the given moment is different and the tips offered here are to be taken only as it is relevant to each person’s unique case. From this home-domiciled desk and chair with which I’ve grown darn intimate comes the idea that the path forward has become murkier than anyone could have expected. There are no forecasts for us to take as gospel and no hands holding us that guarantee that things will turn out any particular way.
Here then, is the thought that preparing for any possible scenario—as a good boy scout would know—isn’t a bad idea.
That and washing your hands.