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How to Keep Your Job in the COVID-Caused Downturn



How to Keep Your Job in the COVID-Caused Downturn

As the number of U.S. workers who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic climbs, and companies continue assessing their viability in this altered reality, more and more jobs are in danger. Unless your job is considered essential or can be performed remotely from home, consider yourself at risk.

The types of jobs that are most in peril include those that require face-to-face interaction with clients or coworkers, such as in foodservice, retail, and the hospitality industries. White-collar jobs are hardly immune: layoffs and furloughs are happening in companies at an unprecedented rate.

If your company has started furloughing, that is temporarily laying off some of its employees in order to stay afloat, you will still be considered an employee. This means your employer can call you back at any time within the furlough timeframe (say three months). After the furlough timeframe ends, the employer can either extend the furlough or, if it must, terminate your employment rendering you officially laid off.

You will want to apply for unemployment benefits for the interim. Many companies will pay out employees’ vacation time to provide furloughed workers with a much-needed cash infusion while going without a paycheck. Hopefully, your employer will continue to pay for your health benefits. You will need to arrange how to contribute to them if needed.

Some of the company cuts and furloughs may be difficult to prevent. After all, there are macro forces at work that extend far beyond your individual job performance. How quickly will your state or city re-open? But, if you’ve ever needed to prove your worth to your boss, this is the time! Be on your game, and try to position yourself as essential.

Here are some ideas to help with job survival.

1. Find out if your company is eligible for the PPP.

Small businesses are eligible for the government’s $670 billion in relief funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Congress authorized the funds in two rounds in mid-and late-April. Employers apply for PPP funding from lenders. While the PPP funding is considered a loan, the loan is forgiven in exchange for companies keeping workers on their payroll.

2. If your company was shut out of the PPP, reapply if possible.

Congress is considering an additional round of PPP funding, potentially expanding the eligibility criteria from companies with 500 employees or less to up to 5,000 employees. It may also ease loan forgiveness requirements. Stay apprised of these PPP infusions.

3. Prove your value to the company.

Promote your successes to your higher-ups. If possible, quantify the value you’re adding to the company, sharing tangibly how you’ve contributed to the bottom line or the company’s stellar brand. When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m pumped from having extended a contract with my top client for another year.” Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers take notice.

4. Put on your work clothes.

This new work-from-home reality is difficult to handle for people monitoring homeschooling or rolling out of bed late after binge-watching Netflix. Even though meetings are now conducted as video conferences, take the same care with getting ready as you did when physically going into work. When you login dressed as though for work (at least from the waist up), you exude competence and confidence. All meetings matter, and setting a professional standard from the outset shows that you’re keeping up your work standards.

5. Always come prepared.

Show up for every meeting prepared and ready to learn. Arrive with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen well, and ask great questions — and never beleaguer a point. Even in the world of virtual meetings, show attentiveness through body posture, appearance, and engagement.

6. Give your best.

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond. Through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide a contrast to others giving lackluster performances.

7. Show initiative.

Ask to take on more. Volunteer for a new project as soon as another project ends. Stay up-to-the-minute about upcoming meetings, company initiatives, and new procedures, and become your boss’s go-to person.

8. Find and share intel.

Set yourself apart by staying up on everything there is to know about your company and its competitors. Read online trade journals. Learn your competitors’ strategies as they weather the pandemic. Be the eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

9. Offer to run the meetings.

Now that many of us are working from home, the old order has crumbled. Those who master the new technology have a chance to move ahead. If your company has not already settled on an online meeting platform, volunteer to test out several of them. Write a list of the pros and cons. Vow to be the techie wiz-kid of your firm. Your value to the company will go up. Even when the office reopens, it’s likely that teams will be having more online meetings as flex-time and other social distancing measures take shape.

10. See yourself through a boss’s lens.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your worth. Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work? These qualities will place you front and center when your boss has to determine who to retain and who to let go.


These are unprecedented times, and no one can accurately predict when the economy will pick back up. Do your best to remain indispensable to your employer, but if your job is eliminated, use your outstanding initiative to uncover new opportunities.

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse 2010), and Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers, and Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks 2008). She’s a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit