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Will Your Job Last?

When the economy takes a nosedive, it's normal to feel concerned about your career. But, how real are those concerns based on your specific job and company? Though the unemployment rate is certainly on the rise and the financial market is beyond volatile, not every company is planning on layoffs or headed toward bankruptcy.

Rather than worrying about all of the possible doom-and-gloom scenarios, it's best to get a clear picture of where you and your company actually stand.

Here are some tips for checking the vital signs of your company and yourself during an economic recession:

Check Your Company and Department

Asking you to study your company can seem like a request for unpaid overtime, but this exercise can pay more than time-and-a-half. You work hard, but how much effort do you put into getting an independent view of your company? Do you ask hard questions about the direction competitors or customers may head in the future?

* Research your company. Most of us take our company's solvency for granted. You can't afford to do that during a recession. Dedicate an hour each week to taking your company's pulse. If your company is publicly traded, take stock in how it's doing. Call a broker and utilize the free phone consultation, if they offer it, to ask direct questions about your company and its future prospects. Or, go online and look at the free research information provided by online brokers. If your company isn't quite so public, keep in contact with vendors and make sure they're being paid on time.

* Do department due diligence. When Microsoft was booming, they announced a layoff of people in their floppy disk division. Even growing companies have parts of the organization that aren't keeping pace. Be sure that you don't get stuck in your company's dying floppy division, or its equivalent. Look for opportunities to get to know people in strongest departments by serving on task forces or just networking on your own time.

* Watch for game-changers. In sports, a game-changer is something that changes the entire direction of a game. At work game-changers can be a huge new competitor, a new piece of legislation that will directly affect your business or a competitor getting bought by a bigger player. When preparing for a recession, follow business news on the Web, network within your industry and talk to colleagues who are in the know.

Check Geography

In retail the mantra is "location, location, location." However, this mantra might be even more relevant for your career during a recession. There are always some regions that are less hard hit by tough times. That's why it's important to keep your eyes on the other parts of the country to see if there are, indeed, greener pastures out there for your career.

* Take a geography quiz. Read business sections of different local newspapers. Read national stories talking about different regions. See if you can make a friend in sales who can tell you if sales in another part of the country are doing better than in your backyard.

* Check out the cost of living. You can make geography work for you by exploring parts of the country that are much cheaper places to live. PayScale's Cost of Living Calculator is a great tool to use to see if there is a region that will leave more cash in your pocket each month.

* Telecommute. Work at a company based in a region that is faring well while living in a city with a lower cost of living. Many people live thousands of miles from their office. And, many companies realize that it's cheaper to have a person work from home. They don't have to give that employee a desk, office space, etc. Explore your options.

Check Your Own Career Vital Signs

Do you like, love, or just plain hate your job? If the answer is "hate" and you're hoping to make a move, be proactive. Don't wait for your company to make the decision for you. Don't stop working toward your career goals during an economic recession. Those goals are just as important now as they were before the economy took a turn for the worse.

* Get happy. Next time you are at a party listen to yourself talk when someone asks you how work is going. Do you get excited like this is a vital part of your life? Or, do you sound like you are talking about someone who died? Another way to take your own temperature is to make a list of the things you like about your job and the things you don't like. If the list of things you don't like dwarfs the list of likes, it's probably time to start looking for new opportunities.

* Talk to people about their jobs. The best way to do this is through "informational interviews." This is where you talk to people who actually do a job that intrigues you. The goal is not to get hired but to get a first-hand glimpse of what it is like to actually do the job that interests you. Ask people what they like, what they don't like and if there are other people you should talk to.

* Get better. Most of us have access to corporate training programs, conferences, etc. But we're all so busy that we tend to put them on the back burner. While preparing for a recession, it's important to make the commitment to continually expand your skills. So, on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) look to develop your expertise. If your company won't support the effort, look for online education opportunities that will give you more options in the future.

Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell author the weekly internationally-syndicated workplace911 column. Bob's a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Sherrie's a work relations expert and award-winning comedian. Together they offer 12 years of quick, intuitive and humorous column responses on their workplace911.com website.

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