Preparing for a Pink Slip

Sarah on “A Scary Scene”

Last Friday, in the late afternoon, I was interviewing a potential employee in a Starbucks on 41st and Madison in New York. We were in the midst of a lovely conversation, looking out a big plate glass window into the busy street outside, when all of a sudden a man of about 55, thin, in skinny black jeans, a black t-shirt, jeans jacket, a backpack and baseball cap collapsed on the street in front of us.

It looked as though he were having a stroke. He couldn’t pull himself back up. Every time he tried to right himself, he fell back to the street and then stared at his hands as if he couldn’t quite figure out how to move them. In a matter of seconds, a few people had gathered around to try to help him. Someone helped him stand back up, but he quickly fell again, knocking his head on the sidewalk in the process.

I realized nobody outside was calling 911, so I leaped into action. I made my way outside, while on the phone with emergency services. In a few seconds they confirmed an ambulance was on the way. By the time I reached the man outside, the people outside explained to me that he wasn’t having a stroke; he was just very, very intoxicated. He apparently lost his job that morning and had spent the rest of the day in a bar. At first I felt badly that I had called an ambulance, but when I noticed the thin, gold wedding band on his left ring finger, I was glad I had. Who knows what would have happened to him if he were left to his own devices that evening – and he clearly had a family who needed him to get home safely. He would be much safer in the ER, watched by professionals.

The whole ordeal left me shaken and sad. On my train ride home to the suburbs, I had a few moments to process it all. In a way, each one of us is just one step away from being where he was. The prospect of losing a job is scary, and to a certain degree, I empathized with this man’s desire to escape. But I couldn’t help but wonder, would he have had such a self-destructive reaction if he had been even a little bit prepared?

Alicia on “Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst”

Getting a pink slip can definitely make you feel out of control. But given the economy, we should all be taking a few steps now to prepare for the worst, just in case. What you need to have is a plan that will put you on firmer ground if you do lose your job.

Below are a few steps you can take now to give yourself more of a safety net later.

1. Institute an Automatic Sweep Into Savings
Any extra cushion in the event you lose your job is a good one. Start sweeping some percentage of your current paycheck directly into a savings account. Even $20 a week will add up quickly. One tip, make sure that the savings account isn’t necessarily linked to your checking account. A great one to use is INGDirect.com. That way your savings are a little more ‘out of reach’ from everyday expenses.

2. Network, Network, Network
Even though you may not be actively looking for a new position, make sure you’re out there connecting with others in your field. At work, jump on any opportunity to team up with others on important internal projects. Participate in company-sponsored training and mentoring courses. Outside of work, stay in touch regularly with colleagues you like and respect, take headhunters’ calls and join LinkedIn or any other relevant online groups.

3. Have a Plan
Think about four or five steps you can take immediately to regain some sense of control and direction if you do get a pink slip. Some ideas: put together a list of current and former colleagues you can reach out to within a week to discuss job opportunities, identify one or two headhunters you can meet with immediately, back up your contacts, and update your resume.