More than 700,000 employees have lost their jobs since July; more than 6.5 percent of Americans are unemployed. Experts say another 2 million jobs may be lost before this recession ends.
Because this recession has included the collapse of banks and other financial institutions, affected the real estate and travel markets and caused unprecedented corporate cost-cutting, many of us who will lose our jobs have never before been touched by a recession.
This time, it's white-collar workers who are feeling the worst of the economic pinch -- highly placed corporate executives and middle-management employees, along with secretaries, receptionists, personnel directors, accountants, travel agents, bankers and financial advisers.
Your best defense is an offense. But don't procrastinate! Prepare for the worst now.
Start by taking a realistic look at just how vulnerable you are. Are you with a high-risk company or in a high-risk field? Do you work for a bank, brokerage house, travel agent, advertising agency, real estate or construction firm, for example?
Has your company been neglecting your department -- or you -- lately? Have other employees in similar jobs been laid off? Are other companies in your field laying off employees?
Now polish up your resume -- and your self-image -- by taking inventory of your assets. Remember: This is no time for modesty!
Make a written list of the skills, talents, personality traits, experience and know-how that help you do your job well. Are you good at working with people, digesting facts and figures, paying attention to details, self-starting, grasping abstract concepts, what?
Now, make a list of all the things you've learned since you landed your present job. How have you grown? What credentials, experience, awards and training have you collected since your last job hunt?
Next, think about what you'd like to do if you couldn't do what you're doing now, and look at how the assets you've just listed might be applied to other fields and industries.
Now make a point of touching base with your business contacts -- before you're unemployed and obviously desperate for their help. Have you stayed in touch with others in your field or industry? If so, check in. If not, start circulating!
Finally, start job-hunting now -- before you have to. Even if you don't find another (better) job right away, you'll have a chance to prepare, practice, update and take inventory of your assets -- just in case the worst happens and you really do find yourself laid off.
On the other hand, you just might discover that you've been grossly underpaid and unappreciated all this time, and land yourself a brand-new, ever-so-much-better job, instead.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.