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DO a self-review. Try this exercise: Imagine your boss, your boss's boss, and the HR director all sitting in a room, categorizing people. What are they going to say about you? How much do they value your work?

DON'T panic! There may still be a way to save your job if your boss tells you you're being laid off. "These are the words you always hear: 'Listen, we have to let you go - it's a numbers thing,'" says Viscusi. He suggests negotiating and offering to take less pay or work fewer days in the week.

"If they still say no," he says, "now you're calling their bluff, allowing yourself to open a bigger severance envelope." That's because if a company has trouble explaining why it fired you, there's room for you to sue for wrongful termination. Some managers might decide it's easier to throw some money in your direction now than risk losing more down the road.

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Last updated January 22 2009: 7:02 AM ET
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