Like a nasty virus, fear of job loss is in the air. Don't panic! But do watch for these signs:
1. You start seeing memos about the company's "new direction." Not necessarily bad—can be harmless or can bode ill. Take a wait-and-see attitude.
2. Your workload is reduced. The classic sign. Look for ways to do more. Volunteer to cross-train. Take on jobs others don't want.
3. Your company starts to close branches. See No. 2.
4. Your company is sold or merged. Your move: Look—and be!—extremely useful. Act welcoming. Don't be one of those carpers who resist change.
5. Your company introduces technology that replaces humans. Learn to operate said technology.
6. Your boss is replaced by someone who's bringing in a handpicked team. Be the person who makes that new boss feel welcome. See No. 4.
7. Your boss asks if you'd consider a pay decrease. If you love the job, look for ways to make up the shortfall. But to be safe, also start looking elsewhere.
8. Your formerly friendly boss starts to give you the cold shoulder. Don't wait for review time. Ask your boss now if there are any problems you should be fixing.
9. Your industry is entering a recession. Take heart. Remember, not everyone gets canned in a downturn.
It's a big subject to tackle in 250 words, but here's the bottom line: Always b e one of the superior workers whom companies can't afford to live without.
And always have a Plan B.
Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.