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When an executive gets the sack, there are two underlying facts: they were caught off guard, or, they saw it coming.  Either way, there is no reason — no excuse — not to be prepared, especially in an era of rambunctious business model reform, consolidation and layoffs.

be preparedSo even if you are not sweating bullets, worried about whether you will have a job in a week, month, or for the balance of the year, smart leaders are always prepared.  Here are five steps to take to avoid getting caught flat-footed:

  1. Ensure that all personal items have been removed or backed up from your work computer.  These include your resume and your business networking contacts as well the contact information for consultants, vendors or colleagues who might be able to help you network for a new position.  You should back them up twice a month, if not weekly.  It is at once sad and laughable the number of people who are suddenly terminated and were not able to retrieve this type of personal information. It is never a good idea to store personal career information on your computer, or use your company email address if you have quietly started your own confidential job search ahead of the anticipated termination, but most people do, so be prepared. Remember, when you use your company computer, there is no expectation of privacy so do not tip off your current employer by being careless.
  2. Keep your resume current.  You should also keep notes about recent quantifiable achievements  that you will want to add to your resume when you re-enter the job search market.
  3. Negotiate — insist up to the point of being thrown out of someone’s office — that they include payment for outplacement coaching in your severance plan.  This should be in addition to whatever cash payments you will receive for termination.  If they give you the money for outplacement, don’t be dumb and think you do not need that kind of help.  The job market has changed dramatically over the last three years and executives who have not been in the job market are frequently caught off guard. Those that take the money and do not invest in outplacement usually take longer to find jobs.
  4. Build a LinkedIn profile NOW! If you wait until after you have been fired, terminated, laid off, sacked, or whatever you want to call it, you have waited too long.  LinkedIn is an important site for external and internal recruiters.  It takes at least a year to build a memorable national brand — one that recruiters will remember.  Have a professional photographer take a corporate photo, one that brings you to life.  Do not, under any circumstance, even consider using a selfie behind the wheel of your trusty car, or a home photo of you and your dog.  Either option is not conducive to enhancing your personal career brand.
  5. Invest time every week in developing a robust inventory of professional contacts, people who can help you move to the next professional position, not Olga from Eastern Europe who keeps emailing you asking why you have not responded to her LinkedIn connection request. If the person is not directly connected with your profession — a physician, hospital executive, a consultant or vendor, for example — just click that you do not know the person.  The financial planner on the other side of the country looking to connect with you is probably not going to be much help when you are looking for a job. You are under no obligation to build an inventory of contacts who cannot help you with your career.  In that regard, remember, it is a two way street.  Also be willing to help those who call you.