Get Over It!

Get Over It

By George White Nov. 20, 2017 4:30 p.m. ET

Large drug company Merck recently announced it was cutting 1,800 U.S. workers.  Bad news for anyone involved, to be sure.  But what about the rest of us?  Should you avoid a company that lays off workers?

Unfortunately, layoffs can be part of professional life.   Studies show that companies letting workers go rarely stop at one round.  Apparently they know how to recognize the problem but have a harder time seeing how big it is. There’s more.  A large company like Merck might also regularly change staffing levels as some products perform and others struggle, and industries often go through trends together (we’ve seen similar actions recently from drug peers Eli Lilly and Pfizer) unless they can truly differentiate themselves.

How big?  The Department of Labor reported 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in September 2017, a little more than 1 percent of all workers, and this was about average for the year.

If close to two million workers lose their jobs every month, it might worthwhile asking how you can protect yourself.  Start by understanding who you are, and use your own natural tendencies to come out on top.  Most jobs fall into a few major categories; find your fit, and you are naturally more productive at work and happier at home.

Second, don’t fight the tides. Look at Merck again.  Sales professionals influence buying decisions, whether we’re talking about drugs, cars or financial services.  The Merck representatives are losing their jobs, not their skills. They just need a new product to sell – either at the same employer or a different one that is growing.  Timing can be a challenge, but not if you listen to the sage advice of some older workers who say just keep changing jobs as you build your skills. That way the change is your decision.

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