While we can't predict the exact date, historical data indicates a recession will hit us sooner rather than later

Why? Studies have shown that when unemployment goes down and stays down for an extended period of time, a recession is inevitable.

Employees with the highest ROI are more likely to keep their jobs.

As a former HR executive who's been on the planning side of layoffs, I can tell you that in a time of economic crisis, companies focus on keeping employees with the greatest return on investment (ROI). How is that defined? Your employer looks at the total cost of employing you (salary, benefits, etc.) and compares it with your output. If they can't validate that your individual productivity levels make or save the company enough money to cover the cost of employing you, then you're at risk of being on the layoff list. Here are several typical workers who make the list:

  1. You're a manager with several people reporting to you, making six figures. The company looks at the workload and realizes if they let you go and have your employees report to your boss, they can save money.
  2. You're an entry-level worker responsible for some tasks that have no direct impact on sales or customer satisfaction. Your job could be viewed as non-essential to the business and worth eliminating to cut costs.
  3. You have a job that is important, and there are several people in a similar role at the company. But you've been there a long time and have collected multiple raises that now put you at the top of the pay scale for your skill set. In a recession, your tenure means nothing. If the company can keep someone at half the price, or outsource the jobs to save money, then it makes financial sense to let you go.

In short, anyone who can't justify his or her value is at risk.

You're a business-of-one. Make sure the service you provide exceeds expectations.

Smart professionals don't see themselves as employees. Instead, they understand they're a business-of-one who focuses on delivering a service that exceeds their customer's (a.k.a. employer's) expectations at all times. They know that an unexpected change, like a recession, could cause the employer to rethink which services to keep and which to let go. Just as we all focus on eliminating the non-essentials when our personal finances are tight, employers do the same. Thus, when you analyze your value proposition and ensure that it's high, you can avoid being let go. In fact, when done right, you become more valuable, because the employer knows your higher level of productivity and output will be required to get through the recession.

Here are 3 tips to help you prepare your career for a recession:

1. Do a salary assessment. Sites like Glassdoor now offer comprehensive salary research tools that let you know how your salary compares with co-workers' at your current job. It will also tell you how your salary ranks against your peers' by region, skill level, and industry. The key is to make sure you aren't too high or too low on the salary range.

2. Create a business plan for your job. Sit with your boss and map out your goals for the next year. Be sure to get clear on how your efforts tie directly to revenue. Come up with a set of metrics you can track, and present quarterly to management to validate you're delivering value and exceeding expectations.

3. Invest some time on your career strategy. Knowing which skills you should be growing to stay competitive in the marketplace and building a game plan to grow those skills is vital to keeping your business-of-one competitive and agile. It's also a good idea to scale up your network and personal brand as an insurance policy. That way, if you do end up being part of a layoff, you'll be fully prepared to kick-start your job search.

Don't let the next recession put your career in jeopardy. By making sure the value you deliver is in alignment with the needs of your employer, you can dramatically increase the chances your job will be saved.