I've spent the last week talking to a lot of people about the economy, and their predictions about where the job market is headed in the next few months. The general agreement seems to be this: we're not officially in a recession, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be looking for ways to protect your job.
While I'll get to some of the suggestions in a minute, one of the things that bothers me the most about these conversations is the emphasis on the fact that the worst time to be looking for a job is when you're out of a job. In other words, desperation makes employers and recruiters avoid you like the plague.
How is that fair? If you've been downsized or laid off, how is it OK to compound the pain by saying you're somehow too needy to be considered for a job? How does wanting to pay your mortgage or feed yourself somehow make you less desirable? Wouldn't your eagerness to have a job mean that you would be a more enthusiastic and committed worker for anyone who hired you?
I guess that's just one of the mysteries of the universe I may never quite grasp, sort of like why we call the male presidential candidates by their last names or formal titles (Senator McCain) while referring to Senator Clinton as "Hillary," as if she's the girl who takes coffee orders for the office.
Now, onto some ideas for recession-proofing your job:
* Keep your butt in the chair. Now is not the time to ask for more flex time or take a three-week vacation. Hunker down and put in lots of face time with the boss to show that you're committed 110 percent to your job. If you do telecommute, try to put in more appearances at the office. Stay strongly connected to co-workers so you know the latest news.
* Reach out. Find out what's going on in other departments so you have a good picture of whether there may be trouble ahead for your company. If you think your employer's in trouble, start getting those resumes out there. There are warning signs, which I wrote about here.
* Network like crazy. Attend industry and professional events, start sending "hello, how are you?" e-mails to your contacts and look for ways to provide value to as many people as possible. Don't be just a "taker", but instead look for ways to make the connection worthwhile.
* Be on the cutting edge. No matter your industry, be aware of the latest developments and how you can position yourself to be of the most value. The people I talked with this week said there may be some shakeout in various industries (finance, retail), but those who know the latest technology, trends, markets, etc., and are ready to move -- and lead -- into those arenas will be of the most value.