Expecting layoffs? 6 ways to prepare

If 2012 looks like it's going to be a down year for your company, you might be worried about job security. You'll need to be ready to roll with changes, whether you suspect downsizing in the next year or the next week.

Preparation means more than updating your resume. "People assume they should wait to do anything until the layoff is official. The result? 450+ people from the same company with similar skills all start applying to the same job postings on the same day," notes J.T. O'Donnell, CEO of CareerHMO.com. Here are 6 things you should do now so you're ready for a layoff if and when it comes.

Create an interview bucket list. Who would you want to interview with, and why, if you got fired today? By fleshing out this list and the reasons why certain companies are on it, you'll be ready to send specific letters to recruiters if need be. O'Donnell suggests a note along these lines when the time comes: "I had a feeling a layoff was coming but didn't want to spread rumors until it was true. The layoffs went into effect today, so my targeted job search has begun. I think you do ____ and ____ particularly well and I love how your company does ___ for customers. So I was wondering what I could do to get on your radar for potential openings?" By having the necessary information at hand to fill in those blanks, you'll be that far ahead of colleagues laid off at the same time.

Laid off? 7 rules for a graceful exitFacebook & your job: 5 ways to get fired
Career advice: How to get promoted

Be visible. Show that you're indispensable, and your name might move to the short list of "people to keep" if there is a tough choice to be made by management. "Don't hide. ... Be out there doing the best job you know how. Make sure you understand your organization's goals and ensure that you are focusing your efforts on them. Communicate with customers (both internal and external)," suggests Clinical Professor of Management John Millikin, Ph.D. of the W.P. Carey School of Business. At the very least, your efforts might pay off in a better recommendation (if down-sizing is simply a cost issue) or additional future opportunities.

Network with renewed vigor. Refresh your connections, both on- and offline. "Join an association that caters to the industry or field that you are currently in or you want to move in to. Get active right away," says Kimberly Schneiderman, founder of Career City Services. If you're worried about putting your current job in jeopardy, don't share with your network that you're looking (which you may not really be doing at this point). Getting back in touch before you have something you need (like a new job) is always a good idea, no matter how secure your position.

Know your industry. Are you up to date on the latest industry news and technology? If not, now is the time to brush up, so you'll be ready for interviews if you need to schedule them. "It doesn't matter if you've been in your current job for six years or six months -- the industry has changed since you were last hired. Talk to colleagues and turn to your trusty search engine to learn about the latest in your industry, the best strategies to use, and which companies are worth your time," says Anthony Morrison, vice president of Cachinko. This includes knowing which of your contacts have recently switched companies or been promoted, and what constitutes a fair salary for potential positions.

Build a Plan B via side gigs. "Take a look at part-time, freelance or telecommuting job opportunities that match your professional interests. These jobs can be done on the side for a few hours each week, in addition to your full-time job, and can help you build a bridge between your current job and future opportunities," suggests Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. The more time you give yourself to build up those Plan B job options, the better prepared you'll be should your Plan A job fall through.

Build your brand beyond your resume. Your resume is just the beginning. "Take your best work samples to create an online portfolio for your career. Include links to your social networking profiles, online resume, recommendations, blog, and anything else that may be beneficial should you need to job search in the future," suggests Heather R. Huhman, founder of Come Recommended. Targeted social networking is another smart step. "Share relevant content on social networking sites in order to show your thought leadership in the space. Not only will taking these steps help if you end up searching for a new job, but it can also advance your current career or help you grow your professional network," Huhman says.