Even though Conan O'Brien was only joking when he quipped last night that in light of his uncertain status with NBC, "I plan to put on a great show night after night while stealing as many office supplies as humanly possible," he's wise to prepare for the possible lay-off, and you would be too.
Although the company you work for is probably not as high profile as NBC, you may be hearing rumors of layoffs as well. If you think you could soon end up as an economic casualty, there are certain steps you should--and should not--take to prepare for it, and for finding a new job. Here are some ideas to help you get a head start on your employment search, without hastening what looks like an inevitable departure from your current position:
The résumé you used to get your current job is outdated, not only because it doesn't list your current responsibilities, but the format is probably passé. Career highlights should be bulleted at the top, not written in a "Career Summery" paragraph. Computer searchable keywords are also important. Start researching new resume formats immediately.
2. Repair any broken bridges
If you have questionable relationships with any of your co-workers or superiors, now is the time to make-up with them. It won't necessarily prolong your employment with them, but it will help you get better references and they'll be more likely to assist you in finding another position.
3. Start building a strong and extensive social network
Connect with friends, former colleagues, employers, business associates, classmates, etc. on websites like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Classmates.com, Facebook, and other industry-specific networking sites. If you already have a presence on some of those sites, polish it and make yourself appear more savvy and professional, rather than as a proud parent, film or music buff, etc.
4. Take classes
Especially if your former employer will pay for them. Even if that's not an option, updating your computer and technology skills, plus sharpening up in any other pertinent areas, can do you nothing but good.
5. Become familiar with layoff policies
Find out how much severance you can expect, if any, and whether or not they'll pay you for your earned vacation days. If not, start taking a day or two off here and there, to work on your anticipated job search. Don't take a long vacation, unless you're okay with not having a job when you return. And start living on a budget that will make your severance last as long as possible.
6. If you have health benefits, start using them
Make appointments with all your doctors while your company is still paying for your health insurance. Dentist, ophthalmologist, GP, OB-GYN, dermatologist, whomever. Even if you get Cobra, it could be very expensive, and you might have to search for new health insurance with a high deduction, so get all your checkups now.
7. Fine tune your personal image
Do it now, while you still have a steady income. Buy a new interview outfit, because I can guarantee you the one you used before is dated. Get your teeth whitened, your hair styled, and new, hip glasses or contacts. Start getting in your best physical shape so you'll look and feel your best when you jump those high hurdles of becoming employed again.
MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL:
Do NOT do any of this on company time. Do not slack off, help yourself to office supplies, or spend work hours searching the web for new jobs or networking. Even though you feel they're treating you unfairly by letting you go, you owe them a full day's dedicated work for the salary they pay you. It's what you agreed to, and your integrity, self-esteem, reputation and word are at stake. No matter how difficult your financial situation becomes, you can't afford to lose those. They're your most valuable assets.