Have layoff rumors been floating around your office? The thought of losing your job can leave a lump in your stomach and a sour taste in your mouth.

No one likes the stress of wondering each day if it might be your last at work, but even in good economic times businesses can and will lay off employees for a variety of reasons. The best thing is to know the signs and be prepared for the next step in your career. While difficult at first, a layoff might be the reason you find a better job with even better benefits.

Indicators of upcoming layoffs

When large companies plan layoffs, many employees are well aware that they might be on the chopping block in the near future. Other times, a layoff can come out of the blue. To avoid being completely blindsided, here are some key indicators of a potential upcoming layoff:

  • Co-workers have already been let go and there has been no communication that it’s an isolated event.
  • Co-workers are proactively leaving their positions to find new opportunities out of fear they may not have a job in the future.
  • You notice something different about how management communicates about future plans and employee functions.
  • Annual raises and bonuses have been eliminated or significantly reduced.
  • Employee developmental programs are being discontinued.
  • Co-workers are openly discussing their concern for the future of the company and their jobs.
  • Online buzz is brewing on message boards like www.thelayoff.com. (Note: Beware of message board information. While some posts may be accurate, many posts are blatantly false, created only to damage a company’s reputation, not to mention cause unnecessary stress for worried employees.)

Knowing the signs of a layoff is a start, but to protect your best interests it’s best to be prepared before the pink slip comes. Here are 10 simple yet highly effective ways to prepare yourself for a layoff so you can survive and thrive in the future:

1. Organize your job search
Job hunting is time consuming, so you should be prepared to hit the ground running by organizing your search now. Update your resume, assess your list of references and decide on a strategy for getting another position. Be sure to leverage LinkUp’s job search action plan template.

2. Network
Make networking activities part of your daily routine. Connect with friends, former colleagues, past clients, etc. Join a professional association and start attending meetings. Get your name out there.

3. Update LinkedIn
As part of your networking efforts, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and active. Don’t forget to upload a fresh headshot, post articles and remain active in conversations.

4. Set up job alerts
Set up parameters on LinkUp to have job alerts sent directly to you. You can start applying for jobs of interest before you even get the notice.

5. Order your finances
Cut back on spending and try to boost your savings as much as possible. It’s smart to live below your means and have a nest egg to fall back on.

6. Use your benefits
Schedule doctor and dentist appointments now and don’t forget about expense reports and reimbursement programs. A layoff means dramatic changes to these benefits.

7. Negotiate severance
If you are offered a severance package, you may be able to negotiate for more money or better terms. Don’t feel pressured to sign anything immediately; simply ask how long you have to review and leverage legal council if necessary before responing.

8. Understand unemployment
Learn about unemployment benefits and how to apply for them in the state where you work. Many unemployment offices let you apply and manage benefits completely online.

9. Gather info
While you never want to take confidential or proprietary information that may get you in trouble, you will want to get necessary information prior to leaving. This could include important contact information only stored on your work computer or samples of work for your professional portfolio.

10. Ask for help
Even if you leave with a great severance package and a recommendation letter in hand, a layoff can be disheartening. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the support of friends and family so you can stay positive.

Read more job search tips and tricks on the LinkUp Blog and be sure to leverageLinkUp Job Search Engine for your search!