Dear colleagues in this industry:
You simply have to accept that layoffs and site closures are part of this career. No matter what assurances you get to the contrary, you can rely on unplanned vacations in your future. “Ah,” you may think, “but I have especial talent, our division was picked as a center of excellence, and I have chart-topping reviews for the past few years.” Do not be a fool. That is not the way this business works, and cutting research remains an easy target for making a company more profitable, at least in the short term.
If you want to keep your sanity, there are a few things you need to do:
1) Save money. These jobs tend to pay well while they last, but you need to live well below your means and accumulate. This may be the single most important thing.
2) Publish and network. Some places discourage publication, but it is really critical in this era that scientists get their work out there and get a reputation that extends beyond their employer. Talk at conventions. Keep in touch with old colleagues.
3) Find a sense of self-worth outside of your job. Perhaps this is family, volunteer work, or even hobbies. Many scientists find themselves with a soul-crushing sense of inadequacy when laid off, having devoted so much of their lives to the pursuit of a particular profession. I have observed many colleagues who suffer symptoms of PTSD even years after getting laid off and years into a new position.
Finally, for those of you “lucky” enough to avoid the axe when it swings, stay in touch with people who were let go. It is not uncommon for laid off people to feel like pariahs among those still employed. “Blame the victim” is a survival strategy for companies who lay off staff, and the remaining staff can often be found to adopt the same strategy at a personal level. Do not let a company corrupt you in this way.I think this is a great comment, and one worth acting on, especially Chrispy's last point.