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Image: Traders are pictured at their desks, with one looking left out of the daily grind.
PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI  /  Reuters
Feeling left out of the daily hub-bub? That may be a sign to get your "house" in order.
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updated 1/18/2011 1:14:42 PM ET 2011-01-18T18:14:42

Times are tough — you've heard the news, seen the unemployment numbers rise to double digits. Maybe some of your friends, family or even co-workers have been laid off, and you begin to wonder: Am I next? Here are eight signs you're about to get fired, and what to do to save your career.

1. Your company is sold
Tough times can mean lots of mergers and acquisitions — was your company bought out or taken over recently? Even if you've been told your job is safe, these kinds of corporate moves always mean the deck will be shuffled, so make sure you hold you cards firmly. Make a list of your accomplishments and contributions, and be ready to give a sales pitch on your worth to the company should you be called in by your boss or a consultant.

2. Pay or benefits are cut
Did the company's lunchroom coffee suddenly stop being free, or worse: Did your 401(K) matching benefits stop? Maybe you moved to a smaller office. Everyone is tightening the belt these days, but watch for little and big signs that your company isn't doing well. Make sure you have your resume polished, but don't act like you're already halfway out the door — now is the time to help add to the bottom line wherever you can. It'll help your company, and boost your worth to it.

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3. Co-workers are fired
Pink slips are handed out all around you, but you've been told your job is safe. If layoffs have happened at your work, don't be naive enough to think you couldn't be next. Make sure you have your resume ready, and scope out the job market. The worst thing is to be laid off and unprepared, so be ready — just in case.

4. You're left out of meetings
There's a management meeting you normally attend, but "someone forgot to tell you." You're left out of the loop when important memos are sent out, or other company decisions are made that you previously would've been consulted on. If this is you, get ready to hit the job hunting trail. Being discounted is like a ticking clock, telling you your time in your current job is about to be up.

5. You don't get along with your boss
This one may be obvious, but just in case: If you and your boss aren't getting along, your job is in jeopardy. Think about it: When he or she is asked whom to give a pink slip, you'll have a bull's-eye on your back. If this is you, look for ways to move within your company. Not possible? Suck up to the boss a little. It may be hard, but it might just save your job.

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6. You're given a dead-end task
Are you counting paperclips or are you told to do some other task that seems pointless or a dead-end? You may be axed soon: Being sent down a dead-end road at work is like being shoved into a corner — a sure sign your skills are not being valued. Look for ways to bring your skills back into the limelight. Volunteer for tasks that no one else wants to take on to show you're not ready to disappear; it beats counting paperclips, right?

7. Your projects are stalled
Feel like all of your work is stopped in its tracks because no one seems to be interested? Watch your back: Having your projects stalled out on someone's desk is like a big neon sign, announcing that you may be fired soon. Look for projects that you can get accomplished, to show you can contribute to the company's objectives.

8. You see your job advertised
You're scouting for a new job, and you see an ad from your company. You read the duties and realize: This is my job! If your company is looking to add to the staff, no problem, but if not, take this as a sign that you might be replaced soon. Don't be surprised to be asked to train the new guy first — right before your pink slip lands on your desk. Start updating your resume, just in case a promotion isn't next.

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The bottom line
Did you recognize any of these signs? Being paranoid isn't helpful, but sticking your head in the sand isn't smart either. If you feel like your job might be at risk, now is the time to shine at work. Put in an extra effort to get noticed, add to the bottom line where you can, and keep track of your accomplishments. You can add them to your resume — just in case your suspicions were right.

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