Minnesota's unemployment rate continues to hover around 7 percent. Some companies are hiring, but others are laying off workers. The truth is we're all at risk for job-loss.

The best time to get ready for a layoff is while you're still employed. Or as well-known author and business executive Harvey McKay says, "Dig your well before you're thirsty."

Denise Felder, editor at MnCareers, urges people to think in terms of their career, not just the job they have now. "For example, think of yourself as a financial professional, not just an accountant at company X," she said. That means developing long-term goals for career development and advancement.

Update your résumé
Career counselors recommend updating your résumé every six months or whenever you finish a major project. Felder also recommended keeping a "master résumé" that lists every job you've ever had, as well as all volunteer work and committee service, dates, salary information, and the names and addresses of managers.

"The master résumé is a reference document," Felder explained. "You can cut and paste pertinent information into an updated résumé whenever you apply for a job."

Build your network
Start by joining a professional organization in your field. Attend meetings regularly, and volunteer for committees and leadership roles.

"If you do lose your job, people are likely to pass on information about job openings," said career counselor Heather Isaacs.

Give your career a boost through social networking. "You can use LinkedIn to build, manage and expand your network," said Mike Powers, director of the Dislocated Worker Program for Minnesota Job Partners.

Felder calls LinkedIn "a homepage for your career." In addition to completing your online profile, she recommends joining appropriate groups and entering into discussions on professional topics. "I've made some great connections using LinkedIn," she said.

Get educated
Experience isn't always enough. "More and more employers are looking for a credential of some kind," Isaacs said.

While you're working, take advantage of all opportunities for on-the-job training. Consider using your employer's educational benefits to finish a degree or start working on a new one. Or become certified in an area like project management or human resource development.

If you entered a field 20 or 30 years ago before a degree or certificate was needed, earn it now. "If you have to move on, you'll be more attractive to employers," Powers said.

Fix your finances
"On average, it takes workers 37 weeks to find a new job," Powers said. He recommended building a cash reserve equal to six months salary, and paying down debt from credit cards, car loans and mortgages while you're earning your full income.

Try to keep your retirement accounts intact. "Withdrawals from these accounts will hurt you in the long run," he said.

"While you're working, look out for others and let them know about job opportunities," Isaacs said. "Then when you need help, you'll feel better about asking for it."

- Nancy Giguere
Freelance writer and former teacher from St. Paul