There seems to be a little bit of improvement in the job market; at least, I'm noticing more openings in the classifieds when I glance through the papers each day. I think things are a long way from where they were a year ago, or even two years ago, but it appears as if the hiring figures are slowly turning around.

Unfortunately, the layoffs don't show any signs of easing up, even with more positions becoming available. I'm fortunate in that I've never experienced a layoff, though I know numerous folks who have. Some have been through them several times. I know some folks who sensed that their days were numbered, so to speak, for months before they actually got their notice, while others were caught completely off-guard. From what I've heard, even those who kind of saw it coming had a range of reactions once it actually happened; everything from anger and panic and then finally a sense of relief and acceptance. From what I've gathered, it's really an unpleasant thing, to say the least, and I can certainly sympathize with the folks I know who have gone through it.

I'm a big believer in planning ahead, and knowing myself as well as I do, I wouldn't wait around for the pink slip. I'd polish up that resume and get those job applications out the minute I heard any type of buzz about layoffs. You can't be too careful, if you ask me. Some job seekers might disagree, though, which raises an interesting question: Is it better to look for a job when you're employed, or when you're unemployed?

It seems to me that there isn't one particularly good time to look for a job, so any time is really the best time. No time like the present, if you will.

It's hard, because most hiring managers like to interview applicants who are currently employed. I haven't quite figured out why, considering it's much harder to schedule interviews with folks who work during the day. There aren't too many companies who schedule interviews outside of the usual 8-4 or 9-5 timeframe, so for folks who work those hours, it's tricky to come up with something to tell the boss as to why they need to leave early, come in late, or take the day off altogether.

And on the other hand, unemployed folks are much more accessible during the day, but they lack that "employed" status that so many managers want to see. Basically, hiring managers want to see that laid off folks are doing something useful with their time, whether it's volunteering, taking classes, or working a part-time or temporary job.

If the writing seems to be on the wall, or will be soon, don't wait to be shown to the door. Get started on the job search so that there are some prospects waiting when that notice arrives.