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Preparing for Layoffs - Just in Case

Fall is traditionally the time companies reduce their staffs as business pressures mount. Given that a number of observers are predicting a slowdown on Wall Street, this is a good time to prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario: your return to the job market.

Even if you feel safe, it's always smart to have your resume ready, just in case new opportunities arise or your sense of security proves unfortunately unfounded.

No matter how happy you are in your current job, you should always have an up-to-date resume in the hands of a recruiter. "You shouldn't have it out everywhere, but you should have an agent looking out for what you do, because if something attractive comes along at a good shop you want to be notified," says Joseph Sullivan, president of International Market Recruiters.

But, observers say, this fall in particular may warrant being alert. "There is a distinct feeling - among investors, bankers and other Street denizens - that the good times may soon be over," writes MarketWatch columnist David Weidner. "Whether it be interest rates, consumer confidence, a deflating housing market, escalating conflicts overseas, looming elections or a credit cycle turning, most everyone agrees that we've peaked."

According to Weidner, less activity on Wall Street combined with high fixed costs at big investment banks like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns "is going to make for some tough decisions in the coming months." Small and mid-sized firms are sure to feel the pinch, as well, he believes.

What to do?

First, update your resume - now. Even if you don't find yourself involved in a downsizing, keeping your credentials up-to-date is simply good practice in managing your career.

Second, stay in touch with your network, including any recruiters you may have spoken with in the past, to get a sense of the market and to share information.

Do great work. Sharon Jordan-Evans, a workplace consultant, tells CNNMoney that being "your best at your job and (being) better than the people around you" can protect you from layoffs. And, she adds, "toot your horn in a quiet, subtle way. Remind people of your value."

Finally, make sure you have money set aside to cover your living expenses. CNNMoney suggests having between three and - ideally - six months' worth of expenses set aside.

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