These days, no one has a guaranteed job. Even the safest of positions is at risk in a poor economy. Sometimes a boss changes and the new boss's working style just doesn't mesh with yours. There's any number of reasons why your job may be eliminated, whether you deserve it or not. Why not start preparing for a job search before you need to? It's not as crazy as it might sound.
If you lost your job today, what would be the first five things you would do? Well, after going home, and crying your eyes out and pouting, kicking, screaming, etc. for a day or two, you would have to knuckle down for a job search.
But here's a thought... How about if you start working on some of these steps BEFORE you lose your job? Let's take a look at them individually and see what we can do.
1) File for unemployment (for U.S. folks, no idea how that works internationally) - OK, obviously you are not going to file for unemployment before you lose your job, but how about visiting your state's unemployment office and reading up on the process and your rights? That way if anything did happen, you'll already know what you need to do to get this done. Play through a scenario in your head of what would happen if someone walked you into an office right now and told you that you were fired. What questions would you ask? What kind of negotiating would you try to do? There may be things that you can negotiate (like payment of COBRA benefits, extension of severance package, reimbursement of professional expenses or outplacement services, etc.) , but if you are sitting there shell shocked because you are caught completely off guard, you are not likely to offer any kind of suggestions.
2) Update your resume - You can certainly do this right now. In fact, I encourage you to update your resume at least annually and preferably more often. If you have nothing new to add (training, an award, a new certification, etc.) that should be a red flag to you that you are stagnating. It's a heck of a lot easier to update your resume when the information is fresh in your mind (Do you REALLY remember awards and honors that you were given 3-4-5 years ago if you haven't updated your resume in the 10 years you worked at your company?) and when you are not in an emotional "oh my god I just lost my job and I need to find a new job this minute!!!" mood. Worst case scenario, if you don't need to look for a new job, look how much better prepared you are for your next performance review!
3) Create/Update your online profiles - Do this right now!!! Start NOW getting a profile set up on appropriate social networking sites, like LinkedIn. You can do one on facebook and twitter, but those sites generally have a more personal feel. Once you have your professional profile set up, be sure to post regular updates about your professional life (i.e. studying for Word 2010 certification exam, attending my IAAP Division Annual Meeting this weekend, etc.). Why??? Because it will keep your name in the mind of your contacts and let them know about your ongoing professional development. It will help them to feel like they are getting to know you better and know your skills. If they know you better, they will feel more comfortable (and inclined) to keep an eye out for a job for you when the time comes. (See my article in the May 2011 AdminAdvantage for more tips about Social Media and Your Career.)
4) Tell your friends so they can keep an eye out for jobs for you - The important thing to do with this step is to build your network BEFORE you need it! I can't tell you how many posts I see of people saying, I lost my job - should I join a professional association? Well yes you should, but face it, nobody knows you and they aren't likely to go out of their way for you if they don't know you. Start NOW working on committees, attending meetings, and building professional friendships that you can use as references and call on for assistance later.
5) Start checking out monster.com and other job searching websites and your local newspaper - You should do this NOW!!! Why? Because it helps you to keep on top of employment trends that you should be aware of. If you see that there are a lot of requests for a certain software package or a certain certification, you can take steps NOW to get it so you are prepared in the future if you need it. You certainly wouldn't want to be trying to cram in a new certification before an interview after just losing your job, after all. This may also end up coming in handy at your present job.
I don't think you need to be paranoid and convinced that your job is in imminent danger. But I think it is smart to do what you can to lay the groundwork for the worst case scenario. If it never comes to pass, you've just picked up some new friends and a little information that may help in your next performance review. If it does come to pass, won't you be glad you've done so much prep work?