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Recession-Proof Your Career

Are Layoffs in Your Future? How to Check Vital Signs During an Economic Recession

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

During an economic recession, layoffs are far too common. Just in the past few months, we heard about the Starbucks layoffs, Chevron layoffs and the big Yahoo layoff. But, layoffs don't have to be a surprise. When it comes to anticipating and avoiding layoffs, we always think of Ernie K-Doe, best known for the hit single, "Mother-in-law." Less well-known was his run for mayor of New Orleans. Sure, celebrities run for office all the time. Ernie's campaign was unique, though, because he'd been dead for over a year. Ernie K-Does life-sized mannequin, complete with his actual hair and fingernails, stumped all over The Big Easy. According to his wife, Ernie had never been in greater demand.

Ernie K-Doe didn't get elected; dead men don't climb into higher office. And neither will you if you play dead at work or hang onto a dying company. To cope during an economic recession, you and your company need to be the picture of vitality. We've listed three Do's and one Don't for checking the vital signs of your company and yourself during this current economic recession.

DO-check your company and department for recession indicators.

Be careful not to drink the Kool-Aid with coworkers by being hyper-critical about your company's future during an economic recession. Get an outside opinion. If you work for a public company, talk to a stockbroker about the current economic recession. Many stockbrokers offer a free consultation. If you work for a smaller company, check with vendors to see if they're getting paid on time. But, don't stop there. Get a read on your department as well. Is your budget increasing during the economic recession? Do you work with vital customers? These are great checkups to see if layoffs are headed your way.

DO-check geography during an economic recession.

In "New York, New York," Frank Sinatra crooned, "The Bronx is up and the Battery's down." This applies to the country as a whole; some regions are hurting while some are doing business even better than usual. Just check the recession indicators. We know what you're thinking, "I've got a house. I can't move." We know a lot of people who telecommute for their jobs. Don't lock yourself into a region that is hurting during an economic recession when you can get a paycheck from another place.

DO-check your own vitals in an economic recession.

Do you like, love or just plain hate your job? If the answer is "hate" and you're hoping to make a move, be proactive. Don't wait for your company to make the decision for you. Try informational interviews with people on a career path that interests you. Passionate people enjoy sharing their career tips with others. You could also try a career assessment test. Sometimes career assessments can help identify a more appropriate career path based on your skills and interests. Don't stop working toward your career goals during an economic recession. Those goals are just as important now as they were before the economy took a turn for the worse. Your work decision-making shouldn't just revolve around your company or region's vitality; it should reflect your passions, too.

DON'T-be a dead head in this current economic recession.

We're not talking Grateful Dead, we're talking asleep-at-the-wheel. Life is too short to be suffering inside a dying company, trying to scrape together a living in a withering region or doing something you absolutely hate. Once you've evaluated your situation, take action.

Next: More on How to Check for Economic Recession Indicators

Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell author the weekly internationally-syndicated workplace911 column. Bob's a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Sherrie's a work relations expert and award-winning comedian. Together they offer 12 years of quick, intuitive and humorous column responses on their website. You can e-mail them at