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Dirty words for jobseekers include downsizing, acquisitions, mergers, closures, cutbacks, and layoffs. No one wants to lose their job, especially with rising gas, utility, and cost-of-living prices. Just the mention of proposed company changes has employees turning to the rumor mill with the same aggressiveness that paparazzi clamor for celebrities' pictures.

Let's be honest, no one looks forward to being let go, for any reason, and unemployment isn't enough to keep most families afloat. People rely on their incomes; therefore, identifying any hint of a layoff is critical to jobseeker survival. Facing unemployment can be daunting, but the true test is how you prepare for it with the time you're given.

Unlike days passed, companies rarely announce an upcoming layoff, unless the story is leaked and somehow makes the six o - clock news. A number of reasons account for these tactics, for example, the attitude and dedication of employees oftentimes change once their necks are potentially on the chopping block. In addition, private documents may suddenly disappear at the hands of disgruntled employees. Companies have too much to lose, so you can understand the need to keep a layoff or downsizing hush-hush.

So, how do you learn what's going on behind your back? Companies doomed with potential layoffs oftentimes drop breadcrumbs before making cuts:

A management or executive-level restructuring, elimination of a second or third shift, and changes in inventory or production levels, are all signs that something is going on. Ask co-workers, particularly those involved with inventory and clients, how things are going. Account managers, for example, will be the first to know when a large client won't be renewing a major contract or if sales have dropped significantly. An inventory and procurement professional will be the one to ask whether suppliers have stopped being delivered to due to late or non-payment issues.

Check the pulse of the local media. Newspapers and business publications can offer a window into the financial health of your employer. Stories and articles covering missed contracts or severed business relationships should capture your interest.

Keep in mind, negative indications doesn't mean you should react hastily. Companies always undergo changes 'more so in today's market. Cutting the fat and shifting to lean operations is a necessity to staying profitable and continuing to grow in competitive markets. As companies are being transformed, retraining or cutting back on staff is sometimes unavoidable.

Let's say the above signs are present in your situation. Immediately shift into survival mode, especially if the layoff is rumored to happen within hours or days. Have you heard the adage, a large project is better completed when broken down into proportional smaller projects? Facing unemployment or termination is much more manageable and 'chewable' if you conduct an in-depth analysis of where you stand.

Update your resume and start scanning for potential employers. Remember, I mentioned above about reading newspapers and business publications? Those same publications can be a huge asset to you while you're job searching, because they also tell you what companies are expanding, landing the big contracts, and expecting to see growth. Look at industries (possibly outside your current one) that aren't facing job losses because you don't want to jump from one sinking ship to another.

Get your financial affairs in order. Unemployment and severance will help for a short time, but prepare for being unemployed much longer, even if your company plans to call you back. It's difficult to foresee who will obtain a job immediately or the actual timeframe in which you'll be called back, so prepare for the worst-case scenario. Save more money than ever before, and sell assets that no longer benefit you or depreciate (lose value) consistently over time. Selling an unused boat, for example, can offer enough money to support your family for a few weeks up to a couple of months. Much as a business expands and contracts, you will find it necessary to do so also.

Cut back on frills and wants. If your company is cutting back, you should too. Controllable, and unnecessary, expenses include morning cappuccinos or dining out for lunch. With jaw-dropping gas prices, a person could easily save $20 to $80 a week by carpooling to work.

By tightening the belt, your hard-earned dollars will stretch farther and will make your job search less stressful. One of the biggest killers for surviving job loss, in my opinion, is desperation. When funds run dry or drastically low, jobseekers become desperate and make critical mistakes during their job search. Don't put yourself on that path.

Approach your HR department with a 'what if' scenario to determine if outplacement services would be offered should the company announce an official layoff. It's unlikely that your human resources department will offer-up details about an upcoming layoff, so pitch a 'if there was a layoff' scenario and determine what the company's actions would be.

Will you be able to cover your expenses at half your salary? Since unemployment rates hover around 50% of your current wage, sit down and create a detailed spreadsheet that includes your forecasted amount of unemployment in relation to monthly expenses.

Identifying warning signs for workforce changes will provide necessary time to plan and prepare. Taking control of the situation, before it takes control of you, will make a huge difference.

About the Author
Teena Rose is a certified and published resume writer and author of "20-Minute Cover Letter Fixer" and "Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."

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