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It starts with whispers in the break room. Then, you see your manager meeting with other higher-ups, and the overall mood seems grim. Pretty soon, rumors are rampant, and people are using the dreaded “L” word: layoffs.

It’s only natural to be scared in such situations, but as career expert Marcelle Yeager writes in a U.S. News & World Reports post titled “3 Steps to Prepare for a Potential Layoff,” there are ways to ready yourself for sudden joblessness. The key is to act fast, she says, since mergers, acquisitions, and company restructuring can bring about layoffs very quickly.

Yeager’s first tip is to reach out to your professional network. To the extent you’re able to talk about what’s happening at your company, email or call colleagues and former coworkers and tell them what you might soon be up against. In addition to receiving helpful advice, you’re liable to learn about opportunities. In terms of peace of mind, it also pays to consult with close friends and family.

“Sharing this information will likely help you to confront the situation and encourage you to take active steps to deal with it,” Yeager says.

Her next piece of advice is to “develop your story.” If and when you start interviewing for jobs, potential employers are going to want to know why you were out of work. Be forthright and explain that you were axed as a result of downsizing — not performance. Then, make the case for why you’re such a terrific employee worth bringing onboard.

Finally, Yeager suggests you “update your branding materials.” This doesn’t just mean adding a few lines to your resume about the job you fear you’re about to lose. Make sure the document is readable, free of grammatical errors, and filled with bullets highlighting your expertise, talents, and the impact of your work.

You’ll want to give your LinkedIn profile a look and make certain that your summary explains the value you bring to a company. Include some personal information about your interests and what brought you to your line of work, and include plenty of keywords applicable to your industry. If you have a website or an online portfolio, be sure it reflects your most recent work.

“Don’t wait,” Yeager writes. “Get it all ready now because the last thing you want to do is scramble when you run into someone who asks you to send them your resume.”

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