Life after layoffs: Preparing an ICE kit
This blog post references, "Life after layoffs: How to move forward after a job loss," an EDN business story posted last week.
Once considered a safe haven in the layoff storm, rumor has it Microsoft will slice its headcount in January. And as each December day passes, it’s becoming harder and harder to imagine how many smart, solid workers will be filing for unemployment in Q1 2009. The numbers since September are staggering and, like it or not, the unfair fact is that at some point in a career, most people will face a, or multiple, layoffs.
I’ve been laid off three times, myself. The first cut came in my early twenties, from a very low-paying job where I sat next to a man who thought it appropriate to clip his fingernails at his desk. Yet, looking back I was still devastated by the layoff and wondered how I would pay my $675 a month rent (now I can’t help but laugh while I type that). My second and third layoffs were from the same job, for which I worked 60 hours a week holding two formerly full-time positions and for which I did a four-hour commute. After being let go once, the company called me back a few weeks later. Then, when I refused to move across the country, they cut me again a few months later.
As a hat-trick victim of layoffs, I’ve picked up a few things. Things like recognizing that the only real job security is knowing that you can find another job; that sometimes it really is just a game of Russian roulette and if the cost-savings number matches your salary, you’re the one hit; and that when an HR rep advises you that your severance package is being paid in "bonus" form, it will be taxed as a bonus, not at the lower payroll tax rate.
But perhaps the most important thing I picked up along the way is to have an ICE kit. ICE (in case of emergency) is a term used by emergency-response personal. You’ve probably heard it as it relates to cell phone contacts (list, say, your husband not as "John" but as "ICE: Husband" in your contacts so that "in case of emergency" the EMT, police officer, etc, knows who to call).
Having a professional ICE kit, in case of layoff emergency, isn’t a bad idea either, especially when you consider that engineers are sometimes ranked as what a friend of mine in HR calls "high-risk personnel," a phrase I’ll translate as employees who could do serious company damage with a few swipes of their fingers on a networked keyboard.
High-risk personnel often aren’t allowed back to their desks after being let go. So all that personal information on your PC — you know, pics of your kids, saved jokes, etc, the stuff your manager would tell you shouldn’t be on there to begin with — not to mention any e-mails you may have saved from management, co-workers, and clients praising your work; links to noteworthy articles from industry-focused pubs (ahem, like EDN), perhaps that you were quoted in; and your contacts could be out of reach if a layoff came.
The basic ICE kit should include all of the just mentioned, as well as an up-to-date resume; references from current and past management and co-workers; pointers to your online social networks, like your LinkedIn and FaceBook accounts; and anything else you believe could prove valuable in a job search.
What an ICE kit should not include is company proprietary information or IP. Even if it was your idea and even if you don’t agree, it’s stealing by law, folks.
I personally have a very outdated ICE kit, one that includes an eight-year-old resume, a shabby excuse for a LinkedIn page (especially bad for an online editor), and no references from my current management. So I’ll be taking my own advice over the holiday break and collecting items for my own ICE kit. Although I hope not to have to use it anytime soon, it’s also handy as a bio and just a refresher as to why you do what you do (besides for the pay, of course).
No matter what way you slice it, being laid off is miserable. But there’s one more thing I picked up in my periods of layoffs, something I always took a little pleasure in on my way out the door: If you are laid off, at least you’re not still there among the reduced workforce, who will now have to do your job, as well as the jobs of your fellow axed co-workers, in addition to their own. It’s hard to recognize when you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to pay next month’s mortgage, but you’re now free to find a better job, perhaps one with a shorter commute and a more supportive manager, and perhaps one where you don’t have to sit next to a guy who clips his nails at his desk.
Share your thoughts on an ICE kit or on being laid off below.