One of the hardest things I’ve faced as an engineer has been company layoffs. It can happen to engineers working in almost any industry. Right now the oil and gas industry is in a downturn due to oversupply and less demand causing low oil and gas prices. While it is great for us at the gas pump and on our gas bills, it is bad news for the employees working in oil and gas industry. Lower profits lead to budget cuts and plans to save operating costs. This results in a decrease in staff head count to match the reduced projects and spending.

This isn’t the first time a company I’ve worked for has had layoffs, and I know it won’t be the last. I’ve come out unscathed so far, but not unaffected. Close friends and acquaintances have lost their jobs. They have bills to pay, families to support, a career they’ve spent years growing, and suddenly no job. It feels so unfair, and sometimes I even feel survivors guilt, like why was I spared over him/her? 

Not only that, but when rumors of impending layoffs start to swirl, it is hard to remain focused and positive at work. How can you ignore the fear of losing your job and current way of life? But that’s exactly what you must force yourself to do. If you get caught up in obsessing about the layoffs you can’t do your job well.

The best way to make yourself valuable to your employer is to continue to do your job, and do it well. Have a positive attitude and good working relationship with your coworkers. Of course, there’s no guarantee doing these things will save your job, but it won’t hurt you either.

I’m a worrier and a planner, so I get gripped with fear when I hear about layoffs. What will it mean for my family and my future? Will we have to move? Will I find another job? But worrying only makes me feel worse and stressed. Luckily I have an even-tempered husband who always reminds me to focus on things I can control and let go of those I can’t. He helps me let go of my irrational fears and focus on my current life and job I still have.

Exercise and journal writing help me release my fears and stress. Pushing myself to my physical and mental limits in a tough exercise session can help me forget my worries and release all my stress. If there’s an issue that’s really bothering me that I can’t let go, I write about it in a journal. Sometimes writing it down is all I need to finally get it off my chest.

Although I haven’t personally experienced a layoff, I have heard that often it can be a blessing in disguise. It is a forced change and makes you reevaluate your life. People often end up finding their true passion and become much happier on the other side. It won’t happen over night, but things will eventually turn around and get better.

For the employees who remain at work, times remain tough at work even after the layoff. Often work loads increase to take over the work that was done by co-workers who were laid off. Budgets are reduced, so you have to find ways to do work for lower cost. And raises and bonuses are often cancelled or reduced.

The good news is that things always turn around. Yes we’re in a down turn now, and it might last awhile longer, but eventually the oil and gas prices will start to increase. Then field activity will pick up and companies will start hiring again. It’s cyclical, and knowing that helps me stay positive in the downturns. There’s no better place to work than the oil and gas industry during the upturns and the rewards are great, but the downturns can be equally devastating.

Have you been through layoffs? What’s your advice to those facing this situation?

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