8 Steps to Take Now if Your Job is at Risk

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Bills.com suggests financial preparation, networking to hone career prospects.

In the face of rising unemployment, the best thing workers can do is be prepared, financially and professionally, said Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com -- and he has suggestions for how to do just that.

Ewing noted that the worsening U.S. economy is beginning to hit workers close to home. As far back as April, one in 15 American workers feared they might fall victim to being laid off. During October alone, the United States lost 240,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate increased from 6.1 percent to 6.5 percent. Since the beginning of 2008, U.S. employment has decreased by 1.2 million jobs, with most of those losses occurring in the past three months. Unemployment has increased by 2 percentage points in the past year, and could go up another point in the next six months.

Against these statistics, the outlook for many American employees is not so sunny. The time to take action is now.

1.    Be appreciative. "If you still have a job, start by being grateful that you are employed," Ewing counseled. You do not need to eliminate your aspirations, but in the current economy, workers may be wise to avoid complaining about their work and instead adopt an attitude of gratefulness.

2.    Be indispensable. Come in early, stay late, volunteer for extra projects, and get the rest, nutrition, exercise or whatever you need to come up with good ideas and do good work. "No need to 'brown-nose,' but every day, ask yourself, 'How can I be the best employee in this place today?'" Ewing suggested. "Watch for needs and meet them before you are asked to do so."

3.    Be aware. Without parking yourself by the water cooler, do pay attention to the rumor mill. If clients are fading into the woodwork, plant closings are rumored, the top managers are sending out signs or the word "bankruptcy" is uttered, your company could be in trouble. Wise employees will keep an ear to the ground for possible opportunities even before they need a job.

4.    Polish your resume. Dust off your resume and review it. Does it reflect your current experience? Add recent achievements and professional involvement. If you see gaping holes where it could be better, take a class, join a group or otherwise fill in the gaps so you are ready to pursue opportunities.

5.    Volunteer. Join a committee in your company, attend events hosted by the local chamber of commerce, become active in a professional organization or donate time to the community. In every situation, be professional. If opportunities arise to mention your skills, do so; you never know who will be in a position to help you (or for you to return the favor) one day.

6.    Conserve cash. If your income is at risk in any way, pay your mortgage, student loans, car payment and other bills as scheduled. Make sure you have an emergency fund - or build one if you do not - to prepare for a rainy day. Pay down as much debt as possible, but make sure the emergency fund takes priority once your base debt payments are made.

7.    Live plainly. Pare down. Instead of shopping for fun, sprucing up your wardrobe or redecorating your home, learn to stay in, spend time with friends and family, and spend less money while you wait to see how things pan out in the future.

8.    Have a "plan B." Make a list of your bills and the priority in which they must be paid. For instance, if you do not pay a credit card bill, you will face hassles and credit report problems, but if you don't pay the mortgage, you could lose your home. Understand what you would do about medical care and unemployment benefits if you lost your job. Make note of resources that could be useful in an emergency.

"With luck, your job will be secure throughout the downturn," Ewing said. "But now is the perfect time to prepare for future eventualities, so you can recover as quickly as possible from a distressing job loss or other emergency."

About Bills.com (http://www.bills.com)
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 40,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at http://www.bills.com/news_releases/.

Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies. Bills.com also was named a finalist as "most innovative company" in the American Business Awards in 2008. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and are recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

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Aimee Bennett

Ethan Ewing
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