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As a by-product of its recent merger with EDS, Hewlett-Packard announced a layoff of more than 24,000 jobs, or almost 8 percent of its workforce. The cuts are highest in support divisions — accounting, information technology, human relations, procurement and legal. But the main rationale of the layoffs is to refocus the combined company's computer-services division on high-end consulting, not low-end gruntwork. What’s worse is the timeframe: job cuts take place over three years. If you work at HP or EDS, your office has now become a professional hospice unit. Adding to the workplace angst: Some at HP, we hear, are getting bonuses even as their colleagues get pink slips. For those fretting about the potential loss of income in these troubling times, we offer the following suggestions on finding your next job or coping with survivor’s guilt.

  • Don't hope for much. Past experience tells us those laid off will not be treated well. EDS has been known to time layoffs to minimize severance paid.
  • Leave when you can. Given the prospects of a skimpy severance, you might as well get out sooner rather than later. EDS has a sordid history as a service provider. Although the guys in the trenches are long gone, the management culture that brought you the $8 billion Navy-Marines IT debacle is alive and well and is now moving to a new host environment. Trust me — another six months at the company will not add anything to your resume. Start your job search now.
  • Aggressively market yourself. Polish the resume on standards like Monster and CareerBuilder. Make sure to also hit specialty sites like, Cybercoders, and Jobfox. Update your professional networking pages. LinkedIn is an obvious one, but have you thought about your college's alumni directory?
  • Clean up your online persona. Yes, most employers don't actually waste time checking your social-network profiles. But why take chances? Play it safe and delete anything even vaguely unprofessional from your Facebook and MySpace pages.
  • Attend mixers and job fairs. Not because you'll get a job there, but just to get practice interacting with other people. Your next job will require more face time, not less.
  • Meet with the headhunters. You may not love them but they can be effective. Visit your friends at Robert Half and the other usual suspects.
  • Keep your sense of humor. HP's layoffs are large in scale, but you're not the first person to endure a flurry of pink slips at the workplace. Some of the revenge stories written by other people in the same situation are epic.

(Photoillustration by Jackson West)