Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dealing with layoffs: 5 ways to help

My main job is as a newspaper editor, and as everyone knows, the industry isn't doing so well anymore. The Boston Globe, where I work full time, laid off 20 part timers in the newsroom last week, cut five more full time positions this week, and handed all non-union employees a 5-percent paycut (the unions are being asked to do the same).

Like most of my coworkers, I've been eying that axe hovering over my head and wondering what I can do to help the people who've gotten cut. At The 36-Hour Day, I've offered up five non-financial ways to lend a hand:

1.) Ask them to network with you. I’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of LinkedIn invitations and recommendation requests I’ve received lately, and it makes sense — sometimes, the best way to land a job is to know someone in the business. An email asking them to peruse your LinkedIn contacts or be your friend on Facebook costs you nothing, and may help them meet someone who can help them get back on their feet.

2.) Offer up your home office. Do you have a fax machine that they can use? How about a high-speed internet connection? A scanner or copier? These are things that you might take for granted, but to someone who has lost their day job — and perhaps their access to all things office — they can make a big difference.

3.) Spread the word. An out-of-work friend may decide to take the opportunity to start her own home-based business — in which case, let everyone know about it. If she’s offering a service you can use, become a client, and give her sincere feedback so she can help make her business the best it can be. Do you have a skill that could help her new business? Maybe she’d be willing to barter, so you both get the benefit.

4.) Offer to babysit. If your friend has kids, offer to take them for an evening — chances are, date night was one of the first things she cut from her budget. (Need cheap date ideas? We’ve got you covered.) Or, she may have had to cut back on childcare, in which case offering to take them for a few hours during the day will be even more helpful. It’s hard to revamp your resume under pressure; it’s even harder to do so with a toddler underfoot.

5.) Really listen. Don’t assume that your friend is devestated about the job loss — for some people, getting downsized may be what helps them decide to find a better career. If she is upset, however, be supportive without resorting to those horrible cliches no one wants to hear. “It’s for the best” isn’t helpful. “You’ve got amazing XYZ skills, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for leads” is better.

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