Q&A: What if your job is in jeopardy?

Being involved in community is best route to future job

The employment picture isn't likely to improve soon, says John Challenger, chief executive of the job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

His comments below were edited for space.

Q: What can workers do if they feel their jobs are in jeopardy?

It's important to see yourself as a free agent. You have a right to look for another job while you're working. You have a right to take on secondary jobs to supplement your income.

It's imperative, almost, that you're out there involved in your community in various organizations, building relationships, because those are the best avenues – other people that you know – to jobs in the future.

Q: What has been learned from previous downturns, in terms of steps people can take to avoid a layoff?

If you feel your position is tenuous, you might seek another job in your field. It makes sense to try to get out ahead of the slowdown.

You might also need to relocate. People open to moving to new industries and new locations have seemed to do better in past downturns because they weren't bumping into lots of people all looking for the same jobs in an industry where the jobs were few and far between.

Q: Should older workers be concerned about age discrimination?

It's much less virulent than it used to be. The leading edge of the baby boom generation is now at retirement age and many are choosing to work, or may need to work, much longer. So I think there will be many more people working and less age discrimination than we've seen in previous eras because a whole generation is looking at retirement in a new way.

Q: What would you say to people who are considering career changes?

I'm not an advocate of changing careers in this type of situation.

If you go to something brand-new, you won't be able to maintain your earnings for what you may need for your lifestyle. Look for jobs that utilize the skills and expertise you've developed rather than trying to find something brand-new.