- You need an emergency fund and you need one NOW. Even if your job seems secure, sock away at least six months of living expenses as quickly as possible. You could reasonably do this within a few months if you drastically cut expenses and work like a maniac at two or three jobs.
- You need to pay off your debts NOW. Your emergency fund will go further if you end up jobless IF you don't have a stack of credit card bills to pay each month. Ditto what I said in the last paragraph--cut expenses, work more.
- Keep your ears open. How are things going in your industry? How are things going in your town? Is the need for the product you create something that can weather a financial storm? Is management nervous? Is tension high at work? If you are self employed, how are your invoices looking? How are your client's invoices looking? Getting laid off shouldn't come as a complete surprise if you are aware of what is going on.
- Diversify. If you are a specialist in a very narrow field, you may want to expand your skills and your job options. In fact, this would be a good idea for anyone.
- Don't get cocky. The idea of "my job will be secure forever" is a myth. In this crazy economy, anyone can lose their job or source of income.
- Be proactive at your job. Look for ways to save your company money and increase your company's income. The very valuable people will be the last ones to be let go.
- When you get the pink slip, leave gracefully. There's no purpose in going down in flames--you might meet up with the people you leave behind again so be someone others would want to help out.
- Get all that you are entitled to. Golden parachute? Take it. Severance package? Ditto. Unemployment compensation? Apply for it.
- Cut back expense to the most basic of necessities.
- Don't panic. This too shall pass.
- Don't stick your head in the sand. After you are laid off, you may be in denial, grieving, or angry. Deluding yourself, ignoring the bill collectors, or trying to put on a show for the neighbors will accomplish nothing. Be aware of what is going on and take action.
- Get a job ASAP. If you wait for the "perfect" job to come along or will only accept a job with a similar status and paycheck as the one you were laid off from, you may be waiting with tens of thousands of other people. Get any job you can in order to get some cash coming in then make it your part time job to look for a better job.
- Change your employment future. Maybe now is the time to start that side business you have been thinking about (of course you would do so slowly and without ringing up debt to do it). If there are funds for job retraining, take it and look towards a new and different employment path.
- Once the initial panic has subsided, take a deep breath and regroup.
- Modify your lifestyle if necessary. Just because you have always driven a BMW and wore a Brioni suit doesn't mean you have to continue to do so. If anything, a major employment shake up usually snaps people back to reality and makes them aware of what is really important (namely the family and friends who will stick by you through thick and thin), not all of the consumerist trappings.
- Be creative. Think of this period as an opportunity to meet the requirements of the emerging new economy. What fields are growing or remaining strong? What new businesses or jobs are emerging out of the current economic crisis? How can you take advantage of this situation to niche yourself into a new paying gig?
- Should you move? Sounds extreme but during times of financial disaster (think the Great Depression or the bottomed-out oil economy in Texas in the late'70s/early '80s) people tend to migrate to where there are jobs.
- Remind yourself that you are not your job and your economic "position" does not define you. You may not be able to change the situation but you can change your attitude and attitude is often everything when it comes to surviving a crisis.
- Remind yourself that you life is a work in progress. Change is fun and the challenge allows you to grow. Unfortunately most people hate extreme change, however the things you learn when moving through periods of big change allow you to become a more skilled, more well-rounded person (and it gives you some great stories to tell the grandkids).