Unemployment is sky high and the talking heads on TV can barely conceal their pleasure when they share the latest bad economic news. So it’s no wonder people are panicked which means they spend less money which means businesses take in less money. This then means that businesses need to let people go and those folks will certainly spend less money…. The bottom line is that anyone with a job has a chance of losing it.

Layoffs can hit you when you least expect it. As someone who has gone through it twice, I can tell you that it’s a heck of a lot easier for you when you’re prepared than when you’re not. The first time I was laid off I was more prepared than most people, but not prepared enough. I had my resume done, read books about job searching and was registered with all the major job search sites. I thought I’d breeze through the interview process with my newly minted skills from Toastmasters and the Dale Carnegie Course. However, I was interviewing for software development jobs so no one cared that I had communication skills. After re-learning how the interview process works (in other words, how to interview so that you get an offer) I finally got a job — and it only took me nine months.

Less than a year after finally landing a job, I was out of work again. This time, I knew how to interview and was still in contact with the people that helped me during my prior job search. I returned home after packing up my desk at noon on that dreary day, but by 5:00 PM I had already lined up two phone interviews and got an offer within four weeks (it would have been two weeks but the HR department had some issues with my requisition). So the moral of the story, get prepared now.

Update your resume:

One of my first bosses gave me a great piece of advice that I share with people that take my interview classes: you should update your resume every year (around the time you get your review is ideal) and also do a casual job search to see what’s out there and how your skills match up. If you don’t have an updated resume, make time this weekend to update it. Getting let go is a devastating experience so it’s easier to get through it when you’re prepared.

Brush up on interviewing:

Interviews today aren’t like they were ten years ago and this is especially true if you’ve been at the same company for a while and risen in rank. While interviewing for my first job as an entry level programmer, I was asked questions about my projects in college and at my internship. Five years later when I was out on the street interviewing for a senior development job, the interviews were focused more on my skills (which people assessed by quizzing me) then my goals or even accomplishments. I wasn’t asked questions about my strengths and weaknesses nor was I asked where I wanted to be in five years.

I spent my unemployed days watching videos (yes, back then they were on VHS) on how to interview and found that many of them were outdated — and the information was just plain bad. This prompted me years later to create my own job interview course because I was preparing for questions that no one asked any more.

Choose your references:

Getting in touch with the people you were pals with at prior jobs is something to do before you ask them to be a reference. These days everyone checks references, so make sure that the people on your list actually remember you. Make some quick phone calls to touch base or if possible, meet for lunch or for coffee. When they ask how you’re doing, you can bring up your job situation. If they seem like they want to help you, ask if they’ll be a reference.

Network, network, network:

Yes, you cannot network enough. Knowing people in the companies you’re interviewing with gives you a huge advantage. You can get the inside track on what the company’s values are, who the key players are and what major initiatives are going on.

So attend an alumni event from your college or a business after hours event from your local chamber of commerce. Get involved with local clubs such as Toastmasters or Rotary. Volunteer with your favorite cause or house of worship. Job loss is much easier to swallow when you have dozens of people out there willing to help you.

Remember that the key here is to prepare before the loss happens. Like they say, there’s no better time to start than now. The biggest challenge I found was that there was no quality training or materials out there to help me so I had to learn everything on my own. I’ve created a number of courses to help people in these situations and have posted much of that material on this blog and in my e-zine, which I invite you to subscribe to.

If you’ve found this article useful, you might want to check out my new CD on Job Interviewing. It’s packed with tips like these that you can listen to over and over again.

Career Success: How to Prepare When a Layoff is Imminent
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