Job in jeopardy? You don't have to just wait for the axe. Act now!

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Your company is downsizing, or has been bought, or the department you work in is being phased out. Your boss has stopped including you in key meetings or projects. You’ve just received a very bad performance review. Your efforts to improve your situation, or even find out what’s going on, are being stonewalled.

These are all signs of serious job jeopardy. What to do?

First and foremost, get your references and résumé in order and start to look for another job. Immediately. It’s always better to job hunt while currently employed. If you are very lucky, you will be able to resign before your current employer has a chance to act. If not, you will have a head start on your job hunt. Either way, you will have begun to take your fate into your own hands. You won’t just be a sitting duck.

At the same time — and this will not be easy — continue to do your best work at your current job. Depending on the reasons for your impending termination, it may buy you time and may improve your chances of getting a favorable severance package. Who knows, they may change their minds about you (it’s possible — remain flexible!). Mostly, you want to leave good feelings in your wake and, of course, you don’t want to give your soon-to-be-former employers any excuse to give you anything less than a stellar reference.

You might also start cutting back on expenses. Gym memberships, unlimited data, cable television, dinners out, vacations, recreational shopping — these are all luxuries that you can put on hold until your financial situation is less shaky. Later, when you’ve landed on your feet, you can celebrate.

It will also not hurt to subtly begin to remove personal items from your workspace and computer. Gather up work samples or contact information you might need, making sure you are not violating any employment agreements by doing so (consult your employee manual or contract). If you think you’ll have time, get up to date on your medical and dental check-ups.

Needless to say, be discreet about all of the above.

Meanwhile, hang in there. Nearly everybody loses a job at one time or another, whether justly or unjustly. Be as ready as you can be, and you’ll bounce back.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at