The short answer is: Not very. This should not be a big surprise. Even your boss — and her boss — are as concerned about their jobs as you are about yours.

What can you do about it? In more normal economic times, you would make yourself as close to indispensable as possible. Perhaps get assigned to an essential project and make sure your contributions are recognized. You’d show up early, leave late, and never complain.

But these are not normal times.

The greatest threat to your position may have nothing at all to do with your performance — or your work ethic. It might be top-level financial considerations that force your firm to cut back, and you may wind up as “collateral damage.” Your company might get acquired or merge with another, and your division may no longer be needed.

So what you need is a “plan B” and here are some ideas:

Find a position with a competitor or with a firm in a related industry. Keep your eyes open, and be aware of who might hire you. Not to leave your present employer; just to know where you might go if your present position disappears.

Consider consulting. Is there a need for your skills and knowledge on a contract basis? Often, companies laying off large numbers of people hire contractors to replace them. When the contractor is no longer needed, the contract ends. That can be appealing to large firms.

What do you love to do that is not part of your job, or even your profession? Perhaps you are a machine designer, and in your spare hours, you are an avid amateur photographer. You focus on landscapes, and have invested in long lenses, expensive tripods, and long weekends out in the sticks. You might turn your hobby into an alternate (or supplemental) source of income. Create a blog to describe your experiences and knowledge. In fact, you might create a course to teach others.

If you do decide that starting a side business could become a hedge against a layoff, you should read: “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” by Michael Gerber. The “e-myth” is the “entrepreneur” myth — namely, that if you are good at something, you can easily have a profitable business doing that thing. What Gerber points out is that taking wonderful landscape photographs does not equip you to run a profitable landscape-photography business. Then he shows you exactly how to get from a position of expertise to a point of running a successful business. Consider copywriting. Engineers are not taught the language of persuasion. But even if you never lose your job, you will gain enormously by learning to write persuasively — the benefits are immeasurable. Good place to start: Copyblogger.com.

An open-source platform called Wordpress lets you create a Web site and blog of almost any conceivable design, without having to know much about HTML and other Web topics. Check it out.

Finally, no matter what sort of “hedge” you decide to pursue there is a generic set of skills you might want to develop: It comes under the heading of “Internet marketing.” It is the science, art, and craft of reaching out to people via the Internet and building relationships with them, so that you can sell them things they want. (To be continued next column).

— Joel Orr

Joel Orr is an NLP Master Practitioner and CTO of EZOSA, a software startup.

Edited by Leslie Gordon, leslie.gordon@penton.com, Twitter @LeslieGordon

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.