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How to spot the signs before you lose your job

Author Joel Garfinkle tells Seattle's Morning News there are plenty of warning signs well before you get laid off and ways to head it off before it happens. (Wiley & Sons image)

When someone gets laid off, it often comes as a complete shock. But a leading executive coach tells Seattle’s Morning News it shouldn’t be a surprise, and there are things you can do to keep the ax from falling.

“This happened way before that last minute. That’s why it’s so important for employees to let people know what their accomplishments are, let them know the value and impact they’re having on the company,” says Joel Garfinkle, author of “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.”

Garfinkle recommends what he calls his “PVI-model” of professional advancement: Actively promote yourself as an asset and valuable person inside the organization, increase your visibility to gain others’ recognition and appreciation for your efforts and become a person of influence who makes key decisions inside the organization.

That’s not always easy. Garfinkle says if that isn’t happening, there are plenty of red flags well before you get the pink slip.

Some of them are obvious. He tells of the client who got into a heated argument with his boss and got referred to HR. He wasn’t fired at the time because they needed him then, but Garfinkle says incidents like those put a target squarely on your back.

Other warning signs include the hiring of new management. You should get an idea pretty quickly whether you’re in or out with the new brass. If you’re suddenly left out of executive management discussions and meetings you used to be included in, it’s pretty obvious where you stand.

Garfinkle also says if you’re a manager and suddenly the people you supervise are taken away from you and given to a peer, it’s also a good indication the end could be near.

But before you panic, there are times when you can save yourself. Garfinkle says the first step is to quickly suck up your pride, get with your boss and figure out the problem.

“Now that takes a lot of gumption and courage to find out what am I doing that’s causing this? Let me sit down with my boss and talk to them, listen carefully, have a positive constructive attitude toward the feedback, don’t get defensive,” Garfinkle says.

Time is ticking. Garfinkle says you need to come up with a measurable action plan with your boss and create “wins” quickly. Then, you need to make sure your higher up’s know what you’ve done. He says don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and get others to do it for you.

“That’s why it’s so important for employees to let people know what their accomplishments are. Let them know the value and impact they’re having on the company because if they’re producing valuable work and no one knows about it, then they’re going to stay invisible. If they don’t know, they’ll assume you’re not worth keeping.”

But he says you better have the results to back it up. And if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll not only survive but thrive.

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