by Carla Benini | December 01, 2003

The “it won’t be me” mentality was a powerful blinder for Don Pietranczyk, former manager of internal communications and events for Chicago-based Morningstar Inc. Even when witnessing waves of layoffs in summer 2002, Pietranczyk felt immune.
   “I grew up in that company,” he says. “Although it was happening to friends around me in different departments, I thought it would never happen to me.”
   Remarkably, even after the nine-year veteran was told during a review in July 2002 that his position would be eliminated that September, it still didn’t sink in. “The writing was on the wall. The invitation was given to me to leave, and I still wasn’t convinced that I was really going,” says Pietranczyk. “I thought at the last moment someone’s mind would change.”   
   In retrospect, Pietranczyk wishes he had been more prepared both emotionally and professionally. “No one wants to be at a job with a plan B in the back of his head,” he says. “That’s not a way to go about living. But if it’s a little further back in your mind, I don’t think that’s such a bad idea.”

"I thought it would never happen to me," says Don Pietranczyk, who lost his job at Morningstar Inc. after nine years of service.

Pink slip season
Sage advice in this economy would be to anticipate the pink slip. And as cruel as it seems, the holiday season is prime job-cutting time for U.S. corporations.
   In fact, you are 25 percent more likely to lose a job from September through December than in the preceding eight months, according to research by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement firm based in Chicago. The reason: Employers are finalizing budgets and business plans for the following year, and payroll levels are heavily impacted by both.
   Despite the grim statistics, few people  recognize themselves as a potential target, say experts. Ruth Luban, author of Are You a Corporate Refugee? A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned and Displaced Workers (Penguin) and a psychotherapist in Santa Monica, Calif., says a disconnect is created because people who are laid off are often good performers. Rarely is there a link between performance and job elimination. 
   “They’ve been validated before the layoff. They feel needed, essential. But those qualities set up denial,” Luban notes. “So many people say, ‘I should have seen it coming.’ ”