Feeling a little uneasy about the future of your job? Join the club. According to a recent poll by the Associated Press, nearly half of those surveyed said they worry about becoming unemployed. And it's with good reason, considering economists are predicting that the unemployment rate will only creep higher throughout 2009.
Though the outlook may seem dismal, your future isn't completely out of your hands. In times like these, your Rolodex is your secret weapon, because it contains the contacts you can call upon for help if you do end up getting the boot. The trick is to build on seven key relationships now, so that when you need to ask for a reference or inquire about openings, you won't come off as a freeloader.
1. A former employer. Whether it's been five months or five years since you've spoken to your previous employer, it's never too late to reestablish contact. (Regretting that bridge you burned? It's also never too late to repair a damaged professional relationship.) If calling up an old boss "just to say hi" feels a little too contrived, go to an event they're likely to attend and "accidentally" bump into them, or propose an idea you have in mind to help his business.
2. Your accountant. Here's a guy who is connected to a lot of people... and their money. He knows who has it, who doesn't, and who's looking for people to help them make more. The great thing about this relationship is that his bottom line is attached to your bottom line, so it's in his best interest to hook you up with valuable connections.
3. Your alumni association. This group is filled with people who are willing to help you based solely upon the fact that you share alma maters. When you do well, it makes them look better. So even if you're lacking school pride, fake it for a day and attend an alumni event with plenty of business cards in hand.
4. Your next-door neighbor. Good fences may make good neighbors, but fantastic connections make even better ones. No one likes to impose, but sometimes your next-door neighbor has exactly what you need -- and vice versa. Strike up a friendly conversation next time you run into yours and find out what it is they actually do for a living.
5. Your dog walker. Or your book-club buddy. Or your yoga instructor. It doesn't matter, as long as it's someone with whom you share a sense of community. People want others with similar interests to succeed, because it substantiates whatever hobby or interest they're investing their energy in.
6. Your hairdresser. Next time you go for a trim, make it a point to get to know your stylist better, and let her know you've referred a few of your friends. Since you're already bringing in business, she'll be glad to do you a favor when the time comes. The same rule applies to all the other people whose services you use routinely -- the manicurist, the barista, the waitress at your favorite restaurant, etc.
7. Your friends' parents. They know you well enough by now to see that you're hardworking, ambitious, and an all-around stand-up person. And even if they don't, they're probably willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because you're friends with their daughter. Regardless, your friends' successful parents have a large bank of wisdom and experience to pull from -- so start picking their brains and inquiring about how they got to be where they are today. Chances are you'll leave with more information than you ever cared to know.