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Prepare for Layoff Now, Fret Less Later

Last year, 2.6 million jobs disappeared in the U.S. That's the highest since 1945. And things could get worse before they get better.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, expects unemployment to peak at about 10.2% in 2010, with more than a third of working Americans unemployed or underemployed that year.

In the current economic climate, almost no one is immune from the threat of a layoff, even mobile-phone employees. (Five thousand workers at Ericsson (ERIC) will lose their jobs.) Even if you believe your job is safe, you can prepare for the possibility that you'll lose it, so you can move quickly to find a new position. Here a five ways to stay prepared:

Be ready for what's next: Keep your resume updated in case you need to begin a job search quickly. Make sure it adequately summarizes your skills, accomplishments and experience. Look at it with a critical eye and make necessary improvements. Also, think about the skills or education you'll need to take the next step in your career, and consider taking classes or obtaining important certifications, especially if your company provides training or covers educational costs.

Network, and network some more: Develop a list of people you can reach out to should the need arise. Experts recommend including 10 to 25 people in your field, at your level and above, inside and outside your own company. Check in with your contacts regularly to keep your relationships strong. Keep track of personal e-mail addresses and contact information for key people in your professional life, from supervisors and colleagues to vendors and customers, so you'll be able to connect even as people move from job to job. And if you're in a position to help someone who's lost a job or is seeking new opportunities, do it now. He or she may be able to repay the favor down the road.

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