I’ve been working in graphic design and/or web development for just shy of 20 years. In that time I’ve endured two layoffs and cobbled together a living through two recessions before I was 35 years old. I’ve learned quite a lot about predicting the future in work situations from personal observations and war stories from others through the years. For those of you who haven’t experienced fun times like these, here are some of the warning signs to help you know when to go:
1. Does your boss or direct manager know what you do? If he or she doesn’t, update your resume. If someone hired you, but doesn’t know what value you provide for the company, you will be the first – or in the first batch – out the door. Or worse: you’ll have a job with no promotions, no raises and no advancement. Say “bye.”
2. Since you’ve been at the company, have quite a few hard-working and valuable people left or are leaving for new jobs. Why? Are they entertaining better offers or are they purely fed up?
3. Speaking of those people who have left, are they being replaced or is the job merely going unfilled. Unfulfilled is a sign that there is money being allocated elsewhere. Or that the person wasn’t necessary and was being kept on for who knows what reason.
4. Downsizing: has the company’s office footprint been reduced? Is office equipment being sold off? Is the company moving to a smaller space? This is indication that the company isn’t going to be growing. Newsflash: not growing is dying.
5. Is there a dedicated salesperson on the team? If yes, is that person in the office constantly on the phone or are they out making valuable connections? Hint: a salesperson should be on the phone or on email constantly if in the office – but ideally a salesperson should be out of the office making inroads on new business. No salesperson? That means no new business. Leave.
“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” – Mo Willems
6. Have you heard about overdue invoices from vendors? Has your boss or manager asked you to lie to someone for him/her/the company about payment that might not happen? Don’t do this. If nothing else, remain true to your integrity.
7. Has a boss or has anyone in management mentioned he/she has taken a pay cut or is no longer taking a salary? If they aren’t getting paid, eventually neither will you.
8. Speaking of new business are new clients and new work a constant? If the company you work for has no new clients in six months, start quietly moving your items at your workstation home. Or turn in your notice if you’ve got adequate savings and spend your time working on going where new work and new challenges are plentiful.
9. Does the company keep up with new technology and encourage everyone to employ new skills? Are they interested in investing in their employees? Is every conference or learning experience examined with a suspicious eye? Are you doing what you were hired to do? If you were hired to code and build websites, but are merely uploading content, eventually your skills will stagnante because technology is moving while you’re standing still. If you were hired to output original graphic design, but are merely a production designer, updating templates someone else created, your skills will atrophy – and in both cases what’s worse is you’ll have nothing to add to your visual portfolio to show what you contributed during your time at this job.
10. If you see your coworker(s) exit in a first round of layoffs, no matter what the owners or management say to or promise you, pack your office. Go home and immediately write your resignation letter. This will not end well and you don’t want to be there when it really gets tough. Your time will best be spent updating your resume, working your network of trusted connections to identify new positions and finding other, more fulfilling, work rather than sitting around hoping the promises come true while watching it all fall apart.
Nobody likes to admit they’re on a sinking ship, but nobody wants to walk out with a box of their belongings suddenly either. Know the signs and prepare accordingly. Kenny Rogers said it best in The Gambler: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”