One unfortunate truth about ad agency work is that there are periodic layoffs and, for reasons you’ll see in a bit, they’re pretty much inevitable. That said, though, that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan now to protect yourself and your livelihood. How? Read on…
Today’s question comes from Todd L. who asks, “I’ve been laid off before and, obviously I guess, it really sucks. Is there anything I can do to protect myself from layoffs at an ad agency in the future?”
So, I’ve titled today’s article “Protect Yourself from Agency Layoffs,” but I’ll admit that that’s slightly misleading. You can’t protect yourself from layoffs—only from the after-effects.
Agency layoffs happen, generally, because the agencies lose clients. Now, agencies actually gain and lose clients all the time; clients are always switching up which agencies they’re working with. When an agency loses a client or two but also gains a client or two, it usually pretty much cancels out.
People may shift around a bit, but for the most part, everyone keeps their jobs.
But when an ad agency loses a big client or two (or several smaller ones) and doesn’t happen to pick up any new clients quickly enough to make up for that loss, they’re left with a surplus of people. And they can’t afford to keep people they can’t use, so they lay them off.
The truth is that you can’t really protect yourself from getting laid off. I mean, you can keep an eye out and if things look like they’re going south with a client, you can try to make inroads with other departments and start keeping an eye on job listings.
But when it comes to making sure that you can bounce back quickly from layoffs and avoid any major financial hardships, you need to start protecting yourself well before then. You need to take action while you’re still employed. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
– Take freelance work. Even when you have a full-time job, keep your toes in the freelance world and take on freelance projects every now and again. This keeps your skills fresh, keeps your portfolio fresh and, of course, keeps extra money coming in.
– Save that extra money. If you possibly can, save up your freelance income to make sure you’ve got your living expenses covered for at least six months. And, of course, if you can save more, save more. If you’ve got a full-time job, one of the very best things to do with your freelance income is to save it until you need it. (Or until you’ve got enough in the bank that you can spend it on something else.)
– Attend industry events. Attending events and meetups is the kind of stuff you get lazy about when you have a full-time job, but you need to get out there and you need to stay social. It’s very likely that you’ll find work through contacts, but you need to have contacts to begin with. Events and meetups are where you find and build these contacts. If an agency needs a new copywriter, wouldn’t you rather have your contact come to you first, before they post the job to the rest of the world?
– Keep your resume, print portfolio and site up to date. When there are layoffs, chances are you’re going to be laid off with several other copywriters (and designers) and that means that these people are going to be applying for the same jobs that you will. You want to apply to those jobs first and lock them up—and you can do that if you keep your portfolio and resume fresh and ready to send out at a moment’s notice.
– Maintain your relationships with recruiters. These are other relationships that tend to go stale when you’re working full time, but you’ll be best served if you don’t let that happen. Stay in touch with recruiters, even if it’s just via LinkedIn or email. If you get laid off, you want to be able to get on the phone and get them working for you immediately.
If the unfortunate does happen and you do get laid off, do your very best to keep calm and to take action.
Most people spend the first several days after a layoff in a daze, feeling (very understandably) shocked and then depressed. But those are very valuable days and if you can get yourself moving instead of spending them on the couch, you’ll be in a much better position. The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll find gigs and/ or your next job.
Your turn! Have you ever had to deal with a layoff—either your own or someone you care about? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below.