If you've ever watched 24, you'll notice that there are a heck of a lot of raids that take place. Jack Bauer is always accompanied by heavily armed men with full body protection, while he never wears as much as a baseball cap. Yet, he always says, "I'll go in first."
The poor men who come up behind him will get blown up, shot, they'll have boiling oil poured over them—you know, the normal 24 stuff. But Jack? Bullets miss him and things explode behind him. Jack knows it's okay for him to go in first because he's the star and nothing bad can happen to the star, right?
Well, in television and movies, that's true. In the real world, I've been involved in the termination of a lot of work stars. They thought they were so smart, so good, so well-connected, and so important that the company would never ever, not in a million years, fire them. Yeah, well, there is no such thing as a secure position in the real world. I have, however, seen people behaving like their position was forever safe because of their specialness.
There are things you can do that will help protect you. One of those is to stop acting like you are invincible. Even if you are utterly convinced that the company will crumble if you leave (it won't), start showing up late, or being rude to your coworkers, or hoarding information, and you'll be shown the door. (As a reality check, ask yourself this question: If I died today, would the company completely shut down by tomorrow? If the answer to that question is "no," then you are not invincible.)
Being a good, kind, wonderful employee doesn't thoroughly protect you either. Decisions to lay people off are made by people looking at finances. If your position is slated to go, it's slated to go.
This means you always need an up-to-date resume, money in your savings account, and a good professional network. Unless, of course, your name is Jack Bauer. Then you'll just be tortured—but you'll always have a job.
Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.