It is important to remember even if the unemployment rate reaches 10 percent, that means 90 percent of Americans are still working.
So, do not to get caught up in the emotional anxiety of assuming you too will lose your job. The fact is that most Americans will continue to keep their jobs. Yet, workers from all companies will be let go to meet the bottom line. It's just for show (and yes it is just for show).
Let's face it, even the meanest boss hates to fire anyone, but when the "recession" word is used in conjunction with lay-offs, it's really a blank check to fire anybody with no real reason needed.
Work is not a democracy. If you weren't old enough to be working during the 1991 recession, the idea that you're not just judged on merit or performance is probably new to you. It seems repugnant; however, get your head out of the sand.
It's important to humanize who you are. In my book Bulletproof Your Job (HarperCollins), I write that one of the 50 secret tips to "bulletproofing" your job is to have your boss know you as "a person," not just an employee.
For instance, it is better when the boss can think of you as "the woman whose husband has prostate cancer," or "the guy who is taking care of his sick mother," or "the single dad with three kids in college," or "the guy whose partner has AIDS."
It is easier to fire an employee who you know nothing about personally, or who you can't relate to as a person.
Still, with the economy the way it is, firing is no longer merit-based and even good workers can get the pink slip. The boss can fire you, because he did not like what he read on your Facebook. Yes, Facebook imprudence = pink slip. Is it legal or fair? Probably not, but it's the way of a recession.
The Obama administration went through every new employee's Facebook page before hiring them. What does that tell you?
Now, it's a fine line between spilling your personal guts to your boss as opposed to casually making yourself known to the boss at the "human" level.
For example, you can casually weave in a line like this. "Hey boss, Mary and I are deciding where to send Junior to college this year. He wants to go to a private school, but we are both so nervous with our jobs, should I be thinking state schools instead?"
Don't expect the boss to answer, you just did enough to establish with the boss who you are as a person, and could have potentially saved your job. Get it?
Is this a guilt trip, trick or technique? Darn right it is. That's why "bulletproofing" yourself requires being a bit Mommy and a bit Machiavelli.
Tele-commuting? I would not be in this economy. "Out of sight, out of mind". Besides, it's easy for your boss to fire someone he never sees and can easily fire over the phone!
If your boss does approach you about letting you go, and they always use these same line, "It's not personal, it is a numbers thing," you should definitely call his/her bluff! Ask your boss, "What's the numbers thing, boss? What is the number?" Tell your boss that you're willing to take a pay cut of 20 percent less for a year, or you'll work three days instead of five. It's better to keep the job you have along with all the benefits, than to be unemployed in a recession. It really works!
Run a "Google Alert" on you company, your boss, and you competitor to keep ahead of news and jobs, and get to know your boss's boss too.
Finally, if you do lose your job, don't fret too much, because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
At www.BulletproofYourResume.com, we create specialized resumes that help people to be perceived as ten years younger on paper. Sorry, it matters. Clean up your Facebook, buy some Crest Whitestrips, no cologne or perfume on interviews and leave the cell phone or Blackberry far away.
Here is a tip that always works---If you're a finalist on the final rounds of interviewing, make an offer your potential employer can't refuse. Offer to work on a "temp" or per project basis. When the boss narrows down the candidates to two or three finalists, ask the interviewer(s) to "try you out." This usually works, because it lowers the risk for them, bosses hate to commit, and you'll seem more desirable than the more arrogant candidates who would never accept that kind of deal. Chances are, you'll do great on the job and land a permanent deal in 30 days.
Also, if you lose your job, stay away from Starbuck's for God's sake!
What is it with the unemployed flocking to these overpriced coffee shops? Is it that misery loves company? The internet is not even free! Unemployed workers show up to Starbucks and Coffee Bean like alcoholics go to AA meetings. Well, here is the problem for the unemployed... guess what? There is no "higher power" at Starbucks that will help you find a job. Get your ass home, make your own coffee, and look for work.
Finally, "networking" is the most over used term in the English language today. Networking is critical, however, keep in mind that people use "networking" as a mantra when it should just be used as a tool. My advice is to start snooping around, and the direct competitor of where you work now is really the best place to start.
Somehow the media has latched onto "job fairs," and everyday I see the same reports run over again and again with people standing in line at job fairs. I'm not saying don't go to them, but I say, get on the internet and follow the Obama dollars. Find out where all this money - YOUR money - is going including to what states, cities, industries, etc. Governors will be controlling the money so look in your state as to where the money is being spent or move states if you have to.
Look, finding a job isn't brain surgery, but there is a strategy that is unique to a recession. The important thing to remember is that you really can keep the job you have, but if you're constantly living in fear and anxiety of losing your job, bosses can smell fear. Remember the saying that you become your thoughts. It's easier to fire the employee who's constantly living in the fear and anxiety of losing his/her job.
To sum it all up, employers hire people who they like personally, and they fire people they don't know or don't like, regardless of performance. During a recession, they can get away with this. Sad but true. In my book, Bulletproof Your Job, I give out 50 secret tips and tricks to help you be part of the 91.9% percent of Americans who have been able to keep their jobs. It's not as bleak as you think if you follow my rules.
Readers of my book write to me every day that the secrets in my book really do work. To those who are unemployed and looking, remember, there is a fine line to being persistent and being a pest. No one hires a pest!
Stephen Viscusi is the founder and CEO of BulletproofYourResume.com