Amid market slides and the ever-present threat of recession, you'd be smart to prepare yourself (and your job) for a rocky road ahead. Plenty of big companies, including Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), Sprint (NYSE: S), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), have announced or are expected to announce substantial layoffs.

Times have definitely changed. Don't let old assumptions and behaviors leave you unprepared if layoffs affect your job.

Out: Assuming your job is safe. In: Readying for the worst
Making the assumption that you're secure in your job is a misstep. Instead, take some steps to prepare yourself for the distinct possibility of layoffs by doing the following:

  • Craft a current resume. It's much harder to do it after you get laid off, when your spirits have just taken a big hit.
  • Make an action plan detailing companies you can contact regarding a new job. But be careful: Make sure you use your home computer for your job search and preparation activities. Your employer may be monitoring your computer use. Getting fired as a result of your attempts to be proactive about your career would be the ultimate irony.
  • Gather reference letters and contact information from current clients and colleagues.
  • Collect samples of your best work (presentations, writing samples, speeches) to keep on file at home. If you're laid off, you may not be able to retrieve any of this material from the workplace. Do be sure, however, that your work samples don't reveal proprietary information; that may spell big trouble in the long run.
  • Secure a copy of your personnel file to keep for personal reference. You may learn valuable information from performance reviews that will allow you to accentuate the positive and downplay any potential negatives for future employers.
  • Make sure that you're square with your 401(k). If you've taken a loan against your 401(k), you may have to pay it back when your employment comes to an end. If you can't pay it back, you'll be forced to treat the loan as a distribution, which could bring a 10% penalty, along with having to pay taxes on money you've already spent.
  • Get reimbursed for your flexible spending now. In many cases, you can get paid now based on what you'll contribute to your flex plan throughout the year. If you get laid off midyear, your employer may end up eating the cost. Tough break for the boss, mini-silver lining for you.

Out: Water-cooler talk. In: Networking
Use time on the job to make strategic alliances and partnerships that will advance your career goals. Take care not to alienate anyone along the chain of command -- low to high; you never know when that could come back to haunt you. Make sure, too, that you reestablish contact with old colleagues and employers who may offer valuable support or assistance in any future job hunt.

Out: Vacations. In: Training
Now may not be the best time to indulge yourself with the vacation of your dreams. Time away means an opportunity for your boss to assess how well the company can get along in your absence. The exception? Pursuing advanced training that will make your skills on the job that much more valuable -- and make you much more difficult to replace. Work with your boss to determine what type of training would be most beneficial, both to you and your company. A bonus? You can use the training as an opportunity to network with others in your field.

Out: Cutting out early. In: Asking for extra responsibilities
Perception is everything. If colleagues see you cutting out early on a regular basis, they won't stop to ask if you have your work completed before they pass judgment. Instead, volunteer for extra work, lend a hand to colleagues, and fill in for those on vacation. Of course, it pays to be strategic in your extra efforts. Send work-related emails late at night or early in the morning and come into the office on the nights or weekends when you know the boss is there, too.

Out: Expecting to be noticed. In: Making sure your value is noticed
Make sure that your employer has multiple examples of your worth to the company. You can do this formally (by creating a portfolio that includes an updated resume and work samples) and include it as part of a performance review. A less formal approach might be asking your boss how you can offer even greater value to your company, while outlining your current contributions. Either way, you want your boss -- if he or she faces a decision about whether to lay off you or the guy in the next cubicle -- to have the impression that you're flexible, eager to learn, hard-working, and accomplished.  

The time to follow through on these job-saving measures is now. While no strategy can guarantee that your current job is safe, you can't go wrong in upping your value as an employee.

Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. The Fool has a disclosure policy.