Is the rumor mill working overtime at your job? Do you think you could lose your job? Prepare yourself financially before you get fired, are laid off, or even see a pink slip.
Start Bolstering Your Emergency Cushion
Trust me, you'll thank yourself later for passing on that new pair of shoes and sticking the money in savings instead. Now's the time to start eliminating the extras you can do without.
But the fact of the matter is, most of us have already cut the fat in our budgets, so where do you find the money to build up a cushion of cash if you don't already have one? If you're sure you've exhausted other resources, it's okay to pull back on your retirement contributions for a bit and direct that money into a liquid savings account instead, says Nathan Dungan, founder of Share Save Spend.
What you don't want to do is tap into your retirement account after you've made the contributions, because with that kind of withdrawal comes taxes and fees.
Ready Your Defense
If and when you get called into that dreaded meeting, you need to be ready to negotiate your severance package, and to do that, you need to do some research beforehand, says Stacy Francis, a financial planner in New York. "If you have even a whiff of possibly being laid off, start to find out what type of severance packages are out there in your industry. This is something people are willing to talk about, and you want to understand the typical range so you know if you're getting a good deal or if you should ask for more."
Employers expect you to negotiate, so long as you do it professionally. If you're unsure what to ask for, consult an employment attorney before signing on the dotted line.
Make Yourself Indispensable
The people who companies want to keep are those who step up when times are tough. They're team players, they're always willing to take on another project, and they pick up some of the slack when others are laid off.
Perhaps more importantly, these people also make these qualities visible to the top dogs. I'm not saying you should email your boss an update of what you're doing every day, but it doesn't hurt to volunteer to put in a few extra hours if needed or take the lead on a big project.
Learn to Recognize the Signs
Sometimes layoffs come out of the blue, it's true, but you can usually pick up on a few changes around the office first.
If you see signs that the budget is tightening, there are hiring freezes, or other people are being let go, that's always a tip off. You should be sure to follow any news stories about the organization, if it's high profile, or the industry as a whole, says Lita Epstein, author of Surviving a Layoff: A Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Your Life Back Together. "If they are saying that the industry is facing cut backs, or a lot of companies in the same industry are losing money, you know that there will most likely be layoffs."
One sign that they might be gunning for you in particular is if your workload gets significantly lighter.
If you start to notice things like this, it never hurts to put your feelers out and see who's hiring. Talk to people, including both friends and recruiters, and see what your options are.
Prepare for the Worst
There are a few things you should do no matter what's going on in the economy, simply because you never know what's around the bend.
For starters, your resume should always be up to date, and you want to continue to network with other people in your industry or the industry you want to become a part of.
You should also keep a journal of your successes, so you have a concrete list of the things you've been able to accomplish at work in case you need it for an annual review or job interview.
And finally, don't rely solely on your work computer. "You should always be sure to have a mirror image of your contacts on your home computer. This means all the people at work who you want to continue to network with, so you can get a hold of them if you need to use them for a job search," advises Epstein.
And if the worst does happen to you, follow my layoff survival guide.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, December 8, 2013
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