Companies left and right are downsizing in this volatile economy. Perhaps you’ve seen the warning signs. The company starts taking austerity measures, parties are cancelled, and there’s no talk of annual bonuses or raises — these are all signs that the company might be experiencing financial difficulties and is looking to lay off a few employees.

If you think you might be the next employee to be handed the pink slip, here are a few things you ought to do:

Don’t Panic!

A lot of employees dread getting laid off, and it’s understandable. However, panicking isn’t going to help and chances are it’ll make you look bad in front of your boss and co-workers.

There’s no point worrying about something that isn’t a given, so you might as well keep calm for the time being. The best thing to do is to keep your cool and refrain from speaking negatively about the company and the situation it’s in.

You never know who’s listening and it could reflect poorly on you.

Continue With Your Tasks

Just keep working, even with the proverbial axe hanging over your neck. Since you’re not even sure that there’s going to be a move to downsize the number of employees, you need to remember that your first priority as an employee is to continue working.

Do not let your responsibilities slide just because you’re freaked out by the possibility of being laid off. Plus, if you work well under pressure, it might even count for you and save you from the dreaded pink slip.

Make Use Of Your Benefits

A lot of employees don’t think about the benefits offered by the company, but this is a serious mistake. If you do get laid off, you won’t have the insurance benefits provided by your company.

If your company offers medical and other health benefits, make sure you use them before you get laid off. Quickly schedule a dentist appointment, get new eye glasses if you have coverage for that, and so on. It would be a waste to let these benefits go unused.

Confirm Your Financial Security

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst: this is a mantra that best suits a situation like this.

You don’t know if you will be laid off, but your best bet is to make sure that you’re financially covered. While your company may give you a severance package, it is still very important to have a plan.

You need to make sure you have enough money for your expenses, debt or loan payments, etc. If you can, start saving money now, just in case.

Update Your Resume

Chances are you have gotten complacent in your position and you’ve neglected your resume. Update the old document or create a new one. Make sure to include all vital information regarding your job and your responsibilities.

Update Your Skill Set

It’s also important to make sure that you’re ready to wade back in to the job pool. Update your skills by taking a few online classes.

In fact, your current employer might even help you by providing financial aid while you go back to school. Many organizations now offer an employer tuition reimbursement program to help individuals upgrade their education.

If you can take advantage of this program before being laid off, it will give you the skills necessary to thrive if your company chooses to downsize. The majority of the time, you can take these additional classes online, so you can stay at the job and upgrade your skill set at the same time.

This will also help you get ready in case you have to start applying for a new job soon.

Remove Personal Data From Your Office Computer

Since most employees who are laid off barely have¬†enough¬†time to clean out their desks, you can just imagine the sort of personal data they could leave behind on their computer before they’re hustled out.

As well, many companies will even go as far as to suspend your computer logon account while you are being told that you are being laid off.

This prevents any disgruntled employees from sending out one final email before they head out the door.

If you sense that you may be laid off, start removing personal data from your work machine, and create a backup copy of your address book.

Start Looking For A New Job – Discreetly

It doesn’t hurt to be prepared, so start looking for a new job. A warning, though: you want to keep this as quiet as possible. Don’t start advertising.

You can begin by asking a few close friends and contacts for job leads. Of course, if you do end up finding a better job then good for you! Just make sure that you don’t start becoming too obvious in your job search, especially where your co-workers and your manager are concerned.