Punch Debt's post today asked a very poignant question: What if you lost your job today?
I think most people don't want to think about that possibility. That is understandable, considering the topic being depressing and nerve recking. However, regardless of the economy, that possibility is very real. At any given time, some one could loose their job, whether it's due to company trimming cost, or large company taking over and replacing staff.
With good preparation, the possibility of loosing a job is not as scary as it could be. A few simple things can make the idea seem less frightening or sudden.
1) have an updated resume - regardless of how much you like your current job, or how secure your job is, always, always, always update your resume at least every year. It a about 10-30mins to put down what you have accomplished with in the year. If nothing seems good enough to put down (unlikely if you are doing well at your job) update the references and phone numbers. If you never need it great; if you do need it, it will take a lot less work to update and send out (and the soon you can sent it out, the better, right?).
2) be on the look out for opportunities - again, regardless of how much you like your job, keep an eye out for positions available from other companies. If you can have a job search site email you a list of results every 2 weeks or so, you can see who is hiring, possibly what the jobs will pay, what qualifications companies are looking for, etc. Even if you don't apply to any of the listing, you can still call the HR and ask for more info. More information will only help in the event you need it.
3) network - networking is a good way to learn about companies and other professions. Just talking and getting to know people will open up opportunities. Never burn bridge no matter how much you dislike someone. You never know when and if it come back to bite you in the ass.
4) have a back up career - have something you always wanted to try but never thought you could do it? learn about it while you have safety of having a job. When you have to look for a new job, you can better go into that new career.
5) emergency income supplement plan - no, not some kind of insurance, but that would be great. Have a plan of where you could get work easily for a short period of time before you find your professional job. Maybe working at a restaurant for a few hours a day to supplement your emergency fund while you are booking interviews, or stock shelves at night at the grocers. Your income at the jobs are only to help extend your EF, so don't try to take on full time status because your focus should be on looking for that new full-time job.
Like everything else, if you plan for it, a job loss will not come as a shock and it will be easier. Always keep your options open.