What If I Get Laid Off? 3 Steps to Job Longevity
By Tim Gramling, LP.D., President, CTU Colorado Springs
“We have to let you go.” I heard these six words from a senior vice president at the Fortune 500 company where I worked for nearly 10 years. I knew it was coming. My entire department had quit or been laid off in the previous six months. Nevertheless, feelings of disappointment and panic came. Thankfully, my feelings quickly gave way to a clear realization – I needed to upgrade my skills.
Since the collapse of worldwide financial markets in 2008, many have found themselves dreading these same words. Rather than counting on long-term job success with your current skillset, you might decide to upgrade your skills now for greater chances at longevity. Start by asking yourself these things:
What Should You Study?
First is the question of what you should study. You can check out projected job openings with your state’s department of labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics websites. Labor departments can provide insight on job growth in the next 3-5 years.
Still, there’s no substitute for checking the jobs available now through sites such as Indeed and SimplyHired. Looking through postings will give you a sense of the job landscape and the skills and academic credentials employers are currently requiring.
You should also check out the competition. The U.S. government keeps track of graduate numbers in every program or major from all colleges and universities in the country. Researching these should help you avoid majoring in an area that will offer either too few jobs or too much competition.
Where Should You Attend?
Second to decide is where to study. Some schools offer only classroom courses, while others offer courses and programs entirely online. If you’re planning to work while in school, factor in aligning your classroom and job schedules. You may want to consider studying online or in a format that won’t interfere with a work schedule.
Make sure any school you consider has the exact program of study required by potential employers. Additionally, consider the instructors’ backgrounds. Are they professionals working in the fields they teach, or do they have more of an academic research background? Determine which might be more beneficial to the type of job you want to pursue.
Also great to ask any instructors, advisors, students or alumni from the schools on your list is whether they have experience with students like you. When I needed to earn a doctorate degree, by the time I had come to Northeastern University, I had already withdrawn from two other doctoral programs. I chose Northeastern because it had a reputation for serving working adults in their 40s who had also struggled with their doctoral studies.
How Long Will You Study?
The minimum length of time you can bargain on studying for will be determined by your job research and program choice. Job requirements may call for a certificate only, a bachelor’s degree or higher. Pay attention to the combination of degree and experience required. For example, a job might express preference for a bachelor’s degree, but may only require an associate’s degree with experience.
Certificates can help if you don’t have a degree, or if you need to add a specific skill to your existing set. Each school has their own policies for granting transfer credit for courses you’ve taken along the way. Ask each school to examine your prior academic work and to tell you how much time you’ll spend completing the certificate or degree you have in mind.
None of us looks forward to facing a layoff. But you can take charge of your career by upgrading your skills now. Keeping up with employment trends, choosing a school that’s flexible and understands students like you, and knowing the right program for your needs will help you take proactive steps in preparing for unexpected changes in your job situation.
Tim Gramling, LP.D., is president of Colorado Technical University - Colorado Springs campus. He earned a doctorate degree in Law and Policy from Northeastern University and holds a master’s in computer science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvard University. Gramling worked in the financial services industry implementing marketing operations in the US and offshore; he has more than 25 years of consulting, business and educational experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @TimGramling.
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