5 Ways to Steady Your Boat in an Unstable Job Market

Published: Sep 15, 2011

By Angela Rose, BioSpace.com

As gale force winds continue to stir the choppy waters of the U.S. economy, even the gainfully employed may find themselves in danger of capsizing. The debt ceiling debacle, U.S. credit downgrade, stock market rollercoaster and whispers of a double-dip recession have resulted in an economic seasickness. It’s time to make fast and steady your boat. These five suggestions will have you feeling ship shape shortly.

1. Consider the worst-case scenario.
This does not mean spending your days in a panic and your nights tossing and turning with worry. It does mean identifying your options should the “worst” (in this case, a layoff) occur. It’s far easier to think clearly about money management and lifestyle changes in the event of unemployment when you’re still operating in the black.

2. Augment your emergency fund.
The average duration of unemployment is currently about 40 weeks, or ten months. Ideally, your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover your essentials (mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, etc.) for at least that length of time. If you do not have an emergency fund, start saving immediately. If your fund is falling short, find ways to save more. One of the fastest ways to add to an emergency fund is to commit to a “no spending” month. Spend only what is necessary (for the essentials) and sock the difference away. It’s tough to do, but you’ll feel that much better when you see a burgeoning bank balance.

3. Update your resume.
If you’ve been in the same position for a few years, your resume is likely out of date. Updating it takes time –something you have the luxury of while you’re still employed. Should the “worst” happen, your employment boat will come about much faster if you have a great looking, well-worded and current resume in hand. While you’re at it, set up a LinkedIn profile and start building a network of professionals in your industry.

4. Make yourself invaluable.
Squalls are not the time for squeamishness. If you’ve been known to state “that’s not my job” in response to requests, stop. With many companies forced to make do with fewer staff, catchall employees are needed as well as appreciated. So take a turn answering phones when admin is sick. Dispose of your own trash (and your teammates’ trash as well). Help with filing if you have a few moments to spare –the more you’re willing to do, the more valuable you become.

5. Dream a little.
If you could do anything in the world for a living, what would it be? Shaky economies overturn some boats but launch others. In fact, entrepreneurship tends to increase when times get tough. If the “worst” happens, and you’ve always dreamt of leaving the 9-to-5 in your wake, you may find yourself with a near-perfect opportunity to do so.

It’s only natural to experience apprehension when faced with job market instability. However, hard work and forward thinking can set you up for smooth sailing, no matter where the winds of change may blow.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

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