Layoff Fears? 3 Ways to Beat Job Insecurity

Last Updated Sep 8, 2011 11:18 AM EDT

Job insecurity is on the rise. With President Obama gearing up for a major speech on U.S. employment -- or the lack of it -- a recent Gallup poll shows 30% of workers are worried about losing their job. That's double the level recorded in August 2008.

Additional fears:
  • 30% of workers say they are concerned their hours will soon be shortened.
  • 33% worry their wages will be slashed.
  • 44% are concerned about retaining their benefits.
Meanwhile, last week's unemployment report today gave us absolutely no reassurance that the job market is improving. The Labor Department said total payrolls were unchanged in August, the poorest report in nearly a year. It's the first time since 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero, according to the Associated Press.

Fear is to be expected, especially in an uncertain economy. If there's one thing I ever learned in an interview a couple years ago with Dick Bolles, author of the international mega bestseller What Color is Your Parachute, it's that no employee is "indispensable." Anyone can get laid off or fired at any given time -- I've been through a layoff myself -- and often these changes are out of our control. Why obsess and become paralyzed over something that you have zero control over?

Of course, we all have insecurities about work and money -- but if to overcome possible challenges like a job loss, we need to stop fearing the what if and start focusing on the what now. Control what you can control.

If you've got a case of the workplace jitters, here's my advice:

Hide Your Fears
Avoid showing any signs of insecurity or fear at work. While you may be tempted to have a meeting with your manager to discuss your job security, it may just make you seem weak, as opposed to cautious. Instead, show through your hard work, actions and leadership that you are committed to your job. You want to give 110% and initiate new responsibilities. Particularly if you're an older worker concerned about losing your job due to age bias, consider taking on the role of mentor to the younger employees to show your bosses that you are an asset.

Of course, as Bolles would say, it's still no guarantee that your company won't have to downsize at some point and need to eliminate positions (including yours). But even if you do get laid off, at least the great momentum you've built in the run-up should help you land your next job -- and ensure you'll be able to use your boss as a reference.

Develop an Additional Income Stream
What you'll need most in the event of a layoff is cold, hard cash to help pay the bills. See if you can develop some of your strengths into a side gig on the evenings and weekends that can serve as an extra income stream -- perhaps tutoring, graphic design, personal training or freelance writing.

Websites like,, and good old Craigslist are handy channels for advertising your part-time services. And an extra revenue stream not only helps to supplement your income, boost savings and provide an extra layer of security in your life: It could turn into a robust side business, and may end up becoming a true entrepreneurial venture where you call the shots.

Start Saving More
If you still have a job but have yet to create that 9- to 10-month rainy day account, make this a priority. It currently takes the average unemployed American about 10 months to find a job, according to the Labor Department. So you want to save enough today to cover you if you are suddenly looking for new work.

The job market is extremely tight: For every job opening there are approximately 5 unemployed workers, according to Bloomberg. With ample savings, you'll be able to keep paying your bills and feeding your family. That way you can focus on finding a job that you truly want -- not one that you desperately need.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new bookPsych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter/farnoosh.

More on MoneyWatch
  • Farnoosh Torabi On Twitter»

    >> View all articles

    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter at @farnoosh.

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App