According to the Labor Department, 63,000 jobs disappeared in the U.S. in February. Although more people left the workforce, unemployment filings were down slightly, but many analysts point to the loss of jobs as yet another sign that the U.S. is either headed for recession, or is already in one.

Losing a job in a recession is rough. I speak from experience. I lost my job during a recession and didn't find full time work for six months. It's not that I wasn't employable. I had a lot of experience in my field. There just weren't as many jobs to be had because during a recession, not only are employers not hiring, but they are cutting back on the number of people they keep on the payroll.

So, what can you do to ensure you keep the job you have, or get one if you find yourself out of work? I am happy to say that I have been continuously employed since that six month episode of joblessness in 1991. Here are a few lessons that I learned the hard way:

Make yourself indespensable. No matter what you do for a living, make yourself the expert. Learn everything there is to know about your job, event if that means taking online or night school courses. Volunteer for additional responsibility. If you work a 9-5 job, be the first to arrive and the last to leave. In short, make it virtually impossible for your boss to hand you a pink slip. If your boss does have to lay off some of the staff and it comes down to you and someone else who is just going through the motions, who do you think they're going to let go first?

Network, network, network. Get to know other people who are also in your line of work. Is there a local watering hole where people in your profession go for Happy Hour every Friday? Hang out there, and get to know everybody. Attend conventions and seminars and other events where you will come into contact with people in your profession. If your employer has to lay off people, then one of your new best friends may know of a job opening at their company. This served me well when I worked in broadcasting. A radio station I worked at was bought out by another company, and they fired the entire on-air staff. When news of this hit the newspaper the next day, my voice mail was full of messages from other radio and TV stations that wanted to hire me on the spot.

Diversify Your Income. Ever since I lost my job and was chronically unemployed in 1991, I have never relied on one source of income. I have always done something on the side to make extra money. When I worked in radio, I also worked as a DJ at night clubs and weddings, wrote newscasts for TV stations, worked on special articles for newspapers in other cities and at one time I even delivered newspapers on a motor route to make extra cash. Currently, I write content for web sites, which has nothing to do with my day job. If you have a hobby you enjoy doing for free, try to find out if there is a way of turning it into a money-making venture.

Save, Save, Save. When you are gainfully employed, sock away at least ten percent of your income. Of course, you should always be saving for retirement, but you also want a "war chest" to fall back on in case you do find yourself unemployed.

File for unemployment immediately. Don't assume you'll find another job right away if you are laid off or fired. File for unemployment THAT DAY. There is no shame in filing for unemployment while you look for another job. You may really need that money, especially if you don't have savings, or you have burned through your savings.

Don't overlook part-time work. Even when I was unemployed in 1991, I wasn't completely out of work. While there was no full-time work in my field, there was plenty of part-time work to be had. I worked a series of part-time jobs, and while they still didn't pay all the bills while I was "unemployed" and collecting unemployment (you can collect some benefits, even if you are working part-time, because you are considered "under-employed" if you are the head of household), one of those part-time jobs eventually led to me being hired full-time.

Work for youself. Perhaps you have been considering starting your own business. If you do have some cash squirreled away, then maybe now is the time to stop considering and actually do it. Face it, you're now working for "the man" anymore and you have nothing else to do but look for work, so why not create your own job? One of my wife's former employers was an executive for a paper company. When he got let go while still in his 50's, he took money from his pension and purchased a Subway restaurant franchise, even though he knew nothing about running a fast-food joint. Within a few years, he was a millionaire. He often told my wife he "purchased his own job" when he bought that Subway franchise.

Start over. Perhaps you have been laid off because your line of work is being phased out. This is happening to many manufacturing workers in the U.S. My father-in-law used to work in a print shop, but the kind of printing his company did was being phased out in favor of more high-tech digital printing. He was in his 50's, the breadwinner in his household and had no prospects for other employment. He went back to school full time, got a bachelor's degree and now works in the health care field making more money than he has ever made at any other time of his life. He plans to retire in a few years with a sizable retirement account at his disposal. The lesson here is that it is never too late to start over and learn to do something new.

3 comments

  1. Elaine // March 17, 2008 at 1:18 PM  

    Two things I would do if I lost my job.

    1. I would be at the unemployment office in a hot minute. I pay unemployment insurance every month, so not collecting the benefits would be stupid. You pay car insurance or home insurance for the same reason, so that you can USE the benefits when you need them. Also, the benefits they calculate for you depend on the number of hours worked in the previous year, so the longer you wait the less money you are going to get from them.

    2. Temp agency. I'd go there straight from the unemployment office.

  2. Monroe on a Budget // March 17, 2008 at 6:26 PM  

    When my husband lost his radio job (same story: company sale), a temp service got him back in the work force with general office and factory work.

    He'd love to be back in radio, but the job market just isn't there.

  3. SavvyFrugality // March 17, 2008 at 10:39 PM  

    That's one of the reasons I left the radio business altogether. Moving on to another job often meant moving to another city or another state. In 20 years I probably lived in 14 different homes. Sales is a pretty universal job. If he is no longer working in radio, he could probably find a job selling in a different industry.

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