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It has been less than 6 months since I joined a new company as an engineer. The division I work for is once a small company which was acquired by my current company which is doing moderate business. For the first 3 months, I had one only a few real work i.e for the customer and I will be free for most of the time.

Though I know that my division is not having many orders from other colleagues. We had a official meeting yesterday for engineers where they announced that there was not even a single sales for the last year and the company is losing money. Everyone was also told to mentally prepare since anything can happen.

Though I am not worried, I still thinking in terms of the worst case scenario. What if I got terminated? My only concern is the work experience which will be less than 6 months. My last job is a contract one for 5 months.

Can someone tell me how to be prepared for this situation as a newbie? Can I look for other options or stay here as long I have been pushed?

Note: I got confirmed and also got a good appraisal from my manager in the current company.

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Your good appraisal means nothing the division is losing money. You should be looking for a new job. I am going to guess not only are you are the newest person but you also have least working experience. This means you will be first to go when the layoffs come. –  Ramhound Nov 19 '12 at 12:23

4 Answers 4

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I would suggest you start preparing for a potential new job by

  • using your free time to study, and
  • looking for job offers.

An announcement like that of your management basically tells (to me) "you are free to secure your future any way you want, including getting a new job". Sending your CV to other companies and even going to interviews still does not oblige you to anything yet. However, you get valuable feedback and experience in interviewing and selling yourself on the job market. And since you still have a regular source of income, you aren't forced to accept the first job offer you get - you are free to be picky as yet, but if you get a really good offer, all the better.

On the other hand, use the time you have to make up for your relative lack of experience. If you can list on your CV that even though you have no commercial development experience with technology or language X, but you have studied it out of passion in your free time, and/or did some pet projects, it certainly is a plus in the eyes of most potential employers.

But even if you eventually stay at your current workplace, your studies will keep your brain in shape. Getting used to spending the day doing nothing useful will make you sluggish and demotivated in the long run. It is hard from this state of mind to get up to speed when the next project arrives. OTOH if you do spend your time practicing and learning, your manager will most likely appreciate your enthusiasm and may find a good use for the skills you acquired.

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You should absolutely prepare for the worst case scenario, however life has taught me that sometimes things don't always play out way you fear they will.

Several years ago I left a stable corporate job for an exciting one in a startup, and after a few months I could tell that things weren't doing so well. They weren't bringing in money at all and the VC was starting to dry up. They only had a few months left and then they wouldn't be able to make payroll. The previous product was a bust as the market just wasn't there for it, so they rebranded and started pushing into the consumer sector instead.

A few people got worried and left and they are doing fine now I am sure. I decided to stay and see how things were going to play out. A week later I was laid off for reasons of downsizing based on seniority, they tore everything down to a skeleton crew in a last ditch effort to try and sign a big client. The cool part was though that unlike the people who left early, I was given several thousand dollars severance as a courtesy for laying me off after only 3 months. The only stipulation was that I had to give back all the stock I had in the company.

Turns out that after laying me off the company signed the big client and with that good news the VC guys came in and gave them a giant capital infusion solving their money problems for years. All of the company stock became worthless after the VC funding anyway so that wasn't a loss. I was able to collect unemployment for a couple months while I found an even better job, and the old company called me back and basically told me that I have an open door to come back if I would ever want to.

If you live in an area where you would be elegible for unemployment compensation for being downsized, and your job isn't completely unbearable then sometimes it makes sense to stay and wait it out.

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+1 for mentioning severance and unemployment compensation - indeed, these are worth taking into account when applicable. –  Péter Török Nov 19 '12 at 13:13

That's pretty grim. In my experience, it is unusual for a company to be so clear about it's very difficult economic situation. As others say, I think you can resonably expect that you may be out of a job in anywhere from 1-6 months - at least in a US business a company being so very frank and NOT offering any plan of action for what they are planning to do to recover is more or less an open invitation to employees to leave.

Realize that in a small company with dire economic conditions, there is no obligation to pay a long lay off package - it may happen, if there are drivers for it, but when a company is truly dying, layoff packages tend to get scanty as the money dries up.

I'd plan the following actions:

  • Spend your time at work being as innovative and productive as possible. If you don't have a contract or a formal assignment, suggest work that could help both the company and you - even if it's a crazy experiment with a new process or technology - it's good to have things to talk about on your next job interview, and being able to stay motivated in an environment like this is a really good character trait.
  • Brush up the resume and start looking - it's easier to get a job when you have a job. It's absolutely fair to say "my company's circumstances are extremely risky, as a newer employee, I suspect I may be among the first to go, so I'm considering my options".
  • If your boss likes your work, and you have a good rapport - confirm with him that the circumstances are as dire as you think. Keep in mind that your boss has his own reasons to encourage you to stay, but he also may be able to provide added insight about your specific group or department.

It's not wonderful to have many short term assignments on your resume when you are in the market for a permanent, long term job. But a bad case of luck in one case should not be a killer when you go job hunting - it happens. A single instance (or 2) is not a big deal, seeing a trend of assignments where you've left for numerous different reasons starts to build a pattern can be a flag. So just make sure in your next job that you either feel very certain that you will settle in for a loner time, OR you are intentionally looking at riskier opportunities, and so it's understandable that your job will change frequently.

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Generally if a manager tells you to prepare they are in essence saying the normal rules of hiding your job search activity are being thrown out the window. In other words you'll not be punished if the manager gets a reference check call from a potential employer or otherwise learns that you're looking for other employment.

That doesn't mean you should take a phone interview while at work. Don't flaunt your job search but you don't need to be as secretive about it as you normally would be.

As to the other comments about you being the lowest on the ladder; well that doesn't always mean anything pro or con. Some businesses will do everything they can to keep the senior team for the knowledge base while others will let them go first simply because they are typically the most expensive. It all depends upon the priority of those making the decision.

That being said; if they lay off all of the senior team in favor of keeping the junior, and less expensive team members, then I'd look for other employment anyway. This approach does reduce cost, but it also puts the remaining team members in a very difficult position.

Remember they still expect the same level of performance, support, and knowledge from the remaining team. Only they will be paying them less.

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