Coincidentally, cnet has a list of 14 things to do if you get laid off from a tech company (cnet.) Number 1 caught my eye:
1. Get involved in an open-source projectA friend and fellow classmate just presented some research on social capital and the open source movement. I didn't attend the workshop but David Miller has the scoop along with a pdf of the slides (Campus Entrepreneurship). Slide 10 is particularly relevant, since it looks at the motivating factors for contributing to the open source movement. I think that the work by Lerner and Tirole best captures the cnet idea that open-source projects can be a fantastic social network that can help in down times.
It's where the most interesting and influential products are being developed, and more importantly, many open-source projects are filled with people who are also connected to companies that pay their engineers. Plus, obviously, working on a development project will keep you sharp and expand your skill set.