Top ten people to butter up before the recession hits

Recession fears are everywhere. Here are the top ten people to make sure you're on good terms with before you need them

  • The staff at your local coffeehouse: No office means you will need somewhere outside the house to work and meet people. Don't be the guy who buys one cup of coffee and sets up permanent base camp at one of the scarce tables. Tip often, and figure your tips based on the time you tie up the table, not just the cost of your one coffee and fifteen refills.

  • Your company's desktop support crew: No, your employer doesn't want your work laptop back. Not with all the weird software you put on it, your finger funk on the pointer, and your dandruff between the keys. If you have an understanding with the desktop support team, they'll let you buy it as surplus or they'll just write it off and let you take it home. Some of these people are on their way out too, so they won't sweat anyone but the most obnoxious users about what has to be returned on layoff day. So don't be an obnoxious user.

  • Your friend who can draw: Don't want to spend the whole recession reading the want ads and crying in your beer. As soon as your "freedom" begins, get up in the morning and register a project on your favorite hosting site. Don't worry about whether you'll have time to finish-if you don't have time, that means you got a job again, and that's a good thing. Just pick out your favorite idea, however ambitious, from your "wouldn't it be nice if..." list, and go.

  • Your father-in-law: Before you walk away from your upside-down mortgage and drop your house keys off at the bank, think about where you'll be living afterward. If it's going to be with the in-laws, call to see if they could use your help now, before they ask. Give your father-in-law a hand cleaning out the garage, and maybe he'll let you set up your computer desk there after you move in.

  • The maintainers of the free software you use: You're going to be building on other people's code, so give the maintainers a hand. Just as a person can never have too many comic books or hand tools, software can never have too many tests. Write some tests for your favorite tool, framework, or library, and send them in as patches. Besides letting the maintainers know who you are, you'll also make your life easier when you start your own coding. Your tests will give the maintainers an early warning when they break something you depend on.

  • Google: This doesn't just mean getting any Googlers you might know to invite you down to the Googleplex for pasta fagoogle and organic argoogla salad. In today's job market, the first page of search results for your name is more important than your resume. Check that your home page, projects page, and resume page are all valid HTML and up to date. Fix any broken links, make a sitemap, and sign up for Google Webmaster Tools, to get Google to notify you of any problems crawling your site. Of course, you'll need to build some Google juice for your name, so get your home page URL out on the net-the easiest way is to put it in your email .signature and post to a well-linked user group list-, and you'll be a step closer to passing the "Google Sniff Test" from prospective employers.

  • Your neighbours: Your neighbours might be seeing more of you if you're working from home, so make sure there aren't any unresolved issues such as whose property that oak tree is on, or who's responsible for shoveling the shared sidewalk. Before the recession hits, help your neighbor secure his wireless network (if you're not already borrowing his signal, that is). Who knows, he may know someone who can get you your next job.

  • Editor of your favorite magazine or web site: You need to keep up on skills, but your book and conference budget went away with the job. Fortunately, many IT magazines and web sites need book reviews, and the reviewer keeps the book. It's pretty easy to trade your writing for free books. Just pick a new book you want, then write (and proofread) a query to a magazine or web editor, including a link to something you've written online. If your writing is decent, and you picked the right editor and spelled his or her name right, the book is yours, compliments of the publisher's publicity department. Since it's a book you need about a topic you're working on, your honest evaluation of what the book offers someone in your position should be good enough to get you invited back to write more. The next step is getting into conferences. If your chosen magazine or web site likes your book reviews, pretty soon you won't be picking up an "exhibits only" pass with the rest of the job seekers-attend your next conference in style as a member of the Media.

  • Your internal "customers" at work: No company wants to do a little bit of layoffs here, a little bit there. They'd rather overshoot the first time than keep people in suspense every Friday. So when your whole group is packing up your stuff, there's probably work remaining for one or two of you as contractors. Make sure the internal client for your project knows your name and skills, whether that's getting in on the right meetings, or putting "staging/~joe/" instead of "staging/project-xenu/" in URLs you send out for review. When your company lets too many employees go, you'll likely be on the list to pick up some project work.

  • The local user group: When the recession hits, a lot of people will start going to user group meetings to network and look for a job. Don't be just part of the crowd. Get on the mailing list now, show up in person before the rush, and look for a task you can help out with-answering new users' questions on the list, helping new users get their machines set up right at the installfest, or going through a bunch of config files and old email messages to write a run book for the group's server.

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