Losing a job can mean losing more than just a paycheck. Without some planning, an extended layoff can cause job skills to fade and make someone less attractive to potential employers. And it's not just the unemployed 8.5 percent of the work force that has to worry about a personal brain drain. Add in those working part time or who have given up looking for a job, and the Labor Department says 15.6 percent of the U.S. work force is "underutilized."
Whether they can speak a foreign language or analyze financial spreadsheets as easily as sports statistics, those people need to find ways to keep their skills up. "Maintaining your skills and advancing your skills is critical to advancing if you're employed, and getting a new job if you're unemployed," said Dean Tracy, a recruiter and career coach in San Ramon, California.