If you are afraid of losing your job, here are steps you can take to protect yourself

Last year, one of my friends got a job she really likes in a medium-sized IT company. Her boss is a great guy and co-workers are competent and fun. There’s only one problem: her boss’ boss (one of the directors) is… as she calls him a pile of 💩.  He tends to summon the team to meetings and chew them out collectively and loudly for whatever problems he sees. He’s abrasive and unpleasant. His emails to his underlings are a case study in rudeness. And, of course, he’s known for summarily firing people who cross him in any way. This has put her on the edge a bit.

Sadly this is the reality for women. It’s a mostly unsaid, but well-known fact of working life that if you as an employee get too far out of line, you’ll be fired or terminated/axed/given the chop – don’t you just love those terms, with their unsubtle flavour of death?

And of course we have all accepted that being fired is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all cost, which is why many of us will accept bad conditions at work and otherwise just to keep our jobs.

I wonder how many workers at Steinhoff or at VBS Mutual Bank had a sense that something was wrong long before the company was exposed, but kept it to themselves out of fear of losing their jobs?

I've learned that the 30s and 40s bring a certain level of pressing issue and one of those issues is losing your job. The thing is when you get older you are at a point in your life where you are consolidating your career and even possibly planning for a family. You don't have the time or energy to be job hopping. You need stability. If you’re like most women, unemployment scares the daylights out of you. Why wouldn’t it: you’re burdened with luxuries of middle-class — home loan, a car note or two and children's to worry about.

So I say it’s time we take the stigma out of being fired. If you can rid yourself of that threat then you grant yourself much wider lattitude at work. Trust me, our workplaces will be better and happier for it. So if you're worried about losing a job, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Eliminate Debt

This for me is the most important thing. Debt is a serious threat to your financial stability because it keeps you from making the most of your money. It also leaves you with less money to do the things you really want to do in life.The more cash you can put towards your debt, the faster it will disappear. Pay off your car and if you have a credit card, pay it off every month. If you can’t do that, get rid of it. Next, pay down your home loan. Or simply sell it or rent it and move into a rental. When you have a mortgage, you don’t own your home, the bank does. The same thing goes for your car and your car loan. As long as you have outstanding debt, you don’t make the decisions about your money, your lenders do.

Continuously Boost Your Skills

As an employee, whether you like it or not, you are constantly being judged against your peers. This might be because of new technology, customer demand, legislation or simply because there is a new CE with a different vision. All these changes invariably have implications for you. And I know how easy it is to get comfortable when you've been at the same job or in the same industry for a number of years. And when you’re busy at work it’s easy to lose sight of the changing needs of the job market. But it pays to work on expanding your skill set and staying current on industry changes. If you can keep the learning habit throughout your career, you’re far more likely to extend your career's longevity, mitigate any risks and improve your employability.

Have an Emergency Fund

Life happens. The car breaks down in a dramatic fashion (always in a dramatic fashion), you lose your job, or all your kids get sick at the same time your roof starts caving in. I know I just broke a window (don't ask how) and at the same time I need to fix the kitchen tap. The emergency fund is your safety net, in the event of bad surprises. It gives you a buffer to keep you going till the time you figure out a more sustainable solution for the situation. If you are already struggling from month to month, you need an emergency savings fund. Tempting as it may be, the emergency fund does not exist to fund your next vacation. The Emergency Fund is for emergencies only. So it is best to keep your emergency fund as far as possible, so that you don’t dip into it to finance your day-to-day whims, but keep it near enough to be able to use the money in times of emergencies.

Have a Safety Net in Place

If you are constantly worried about money, do something productive to put a financial safety net (even a small one) in place. Create a sense of security by saving money so you're cushioned if the worst happens. Run the numbers so you're 100 percent sure what you need each month to pay your bills. Also be realistic. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you'll need advice. Consult a financial advisor to help you figure out how to develop reserves in your current situation. Taking action empowers you and becomes a bigger focus than your fear.

Take Care Of Yourself

When you’re worried about finding a job and making ends meet, it’s easy for neglect yourself. Make sure you take care of your health. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep. If you need support, find a coach, religious leader or mentor to help guide you. Ground yourself in all of your positive attributes and take a moment to appreciate who you are, as those things about you don't change based on your employment status.

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Look for Another Opportunity

If you’re genuinely unhappy in your job, feel unappreciated or under challenged, or truly fear you're about to lose your job, update your CV and start scouting for other job options. It's also a good time to put out some networking feelers. Also try that business idea you've been thinking about. Just don't quit your job without any plan. In this market, that would be too risky. 

In conclusion, stop playing out the "what ifs" in your mind and, instead, accept "what is." Connect to the present. Do your job now, today, the best you can. Trust in your abilities and, at the same time, get prepared for change. Even if the worst case happens, you can bounce from it.