When you lose your job, or even if you're worried about it, the most important thing you can do for your career is aggressively save your money. The average job hunt takes six months. If your salary is above average, then so is the estimated length of your job hunt. Money in the bank will afford you the time you need to hunt. The more time you have to hunt, the less likely you are to have to settle for a job you don't like.
Even in the face of this knowledge, many people start their job hunt with a level of optimism (or denial) that allows them to continue their I-have-a-job spending patterns. Losing a job is like death — even if you saw it coming, you are sad. Most people cope with sadness by spending money: on clothes, on bars, on baseball tickets and all-day spa deals. The best way to convince yourself to immediately start saving is to envision what will happen to your career opportunities if you keep spending.
Maybe you are one of those really optimistic people. Optimism is good. But optimism with money in the bank is better. For you, it might take a few months of job-hunting for you to cut your spending. You might send out resumes for jobs that are better than the job you just lost. Given the current market you would be being very, very optimistic, but hey, sending out a resume is free. It only takes time and when you're unemployed, you have a lot of that.
If you don't get a job in a couple of months, you need to admit that you are just like everyone else, and your hunt will take half a year. At this point, you probably have had no interviews, or if you have had interviews, the hiring manager has said casually, “We culled your resume from a pile of 300 qualified applicants.”
But there's still time to adjust your budget so you can last longer. Cut your budget as much as you can without losing your housing, your friends or your sanity. If it's too late, and you don't have enough money to last six months, then cut your job expectations, too, so that you can land a job more quickly. Having a little money to spare allows you to be a little bit picky about the job you take. When you're broke you have to take the first job that comes along.
Still not scared enough to save? If you don't cut back at this point, you'll want to cut back later, but it'll be too late. Early on, you can cut back on things that don't matter that much, like movies, facials, and extra toppings on your pizza. Later, you have to also cut back on things that matter a lot, like your cell phone (you turn it off even though you put that number on resumes you sent out) and your health insurance (you figure you're healthy, so you stop paying insanely high COBRA fees.)
Then you realize you have erred. Like, you hear about someone in your position who got sick and had to go to a scary hospital because they were uninsured and they got even sicker while they were there. So you take a job at Starbucks, or the Starbucks equivalent in your neighborhood — one of those big retail chains that offer bad jobs and good health insurance. You find yourself living off your Starbucks salary and you are miserable, and you are drowning your sorrows in free lattes.
This scenario is grim, think about it at the beginning of your hunt, when you are figuring out how long your money has to last. That way you are less likely to end up in job hunt hell. A key to a successful job hunt is giving yourself enough time to succeed, and in this case, time is money.