Let’s mull over a dose of reality. Before March 2020 you probably felt that you were in control of lots of situations in your life. You might have thought there was a slim chance you would face a layoff/work stoppage before you voluntarily ended your career but had not given it the second thought. Obviously, there is a significantly higher chance now than before.

COVID-19 has reminded us that buyouts, plant relocations and closures, bankruptcies, reductions in force and mergers are not the only events with the horrid result that we will be out of full-time employment or forced to look for another job or location.

I realize this is not a happy thought especially since we actually have not resolved all of the economic issues associated with the virus, however, it is something we should think about. Just like facing some unnatural disaster like a house fire, each of us needs an emergency preparedness plan before the disaster strikes.

Let me suggest some things that need to be in your “layoff emergency preparedness plan.”

Make sure your resume

is current and complete

I suggest that you hang your latest revised version of your resume on your refrigerator door. That does two things. First, it forces you to keep it current. Second, it is a constant reminder when you pass the refrigerator that you may need that resume tomorrow because a layoff may be that eminent.

Build your network now

Now is the time to pull together your network of people to call on. It is too late and time consuming to do so after you realize you need it. The reason a network is so important is that most jobs come through the people you know alerting you to the openings. There are a huge number of jobs that never get advertised. They get filled through a network of friends and acquaintances.

Set aside a layoff emergency fund

While in most cases you will receive unemployment compensation upon being laid off, it is never enough money to meet your obligations. You should check with the person who handles benefits at your work. Find out about your COBRA benefits, accrued vacation pay and separation packages (if any). You need to know where to go and what to ask for when a layoff comes so you don’t just panic.

Build up a reserve fund of at least six months’ salary to help relieve the pressure of finances while you research the next job. I know this is an overwhelming amount of money when you are living from pay check to pay check, but give up something each month and save that amount of money. It will add up — perhaps in time for you to be prepared should you need it.

Take charge of your own training

If your employer does not provide periodic training, you should take on that responsibility yourself now. If your job’s technical requirements are changing then seek the training necessary to stay ahead of the changes. Training is a matter of making yourself more valuable to your current employer and to your next employer. If you aren’t keeping up, you’ll be left behind. Learning new and improving existing skills never diminishes your value, it may turn you into being essential to your employer.

Evaluate whether your skills

could be used in your own business

I know lots of people who have told me that a layoff was the best thing that ever happened to them. It forced them to start their own businesses. Had the layoff not occurred, they would still be languishing in a dead end job working for someone else. Yet you can’t wait until a layoff to decide if working for yourself is for you. Identify your skills in terms of marketability, honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, check out some skill-assessment tools that provide unbiased information and see if being a small-business owner is for you. Do at least simple marketing studies of whether your business concept has the potential to make it. Seek the advice of a mentor, someone whom you can trust who will be forthright in encouraging you as well as in making certain you are facing reality in your decision making processes.

Obviously, my layoff emergency preparedness plan might be different from yours, but the important thing is to begin now to think about the plan and to work on pulling together the resources and contacts to seize the opportunity that a layoff might offer you.

Shelburne Ferguson Jr. is a retired attorney. You can reach him at (423) 667-3132.