January 8, 2010
When the economy destabilizes and unemployment rises, job security becomes a critical issue - across industry lines, and from executive to entry levels. There are no guarantees - in any economy - but there are always steps you can take to solidify your professional image and performance. And the more valuable you are as an employee, the greater your chances of keeping your job. Utilize the guidelines below, customizing as necessary for your field, your industry, and your place of employment.
Put Forth The Extra Effort
Under economic duress companies employ a variety of tactics to stay productive and viable. Whether downsizing staff, eliminating overtime, or reducing overhead, company cutbacks often result in less employees doing more work. Take on that work. Without resistance, without complaint. Selfless contributions - a few extra hours, another project or client, another daily meeting - demonstrate that you are a team player, invested in the health of the company as a whole. No matter what your role, it can't hurt to assert your work ethic and show enthusiasm. If the time comes for a round of layoffs, you don't want to be the one who sat back, grumbled, moaned, and did the minimum to keep under the radar. Don't take your job for granted. For as many influences are out of your control, you do have control of how you present yourself and how you respond to change, uncertainty, and adversity.
Make Yourself Visible
When executive eyes are on the big picture - as they often are when the economy is down - they see little else. In some cases, you could be putting forth extra hours and extra work, only for your efforts to rattle around unnoticed in your cubicle. If you see the opportunity to work on more visible projects, volunteer. Show initiative. Demonstrate interest. Make it known that you want to be involved and that you want to take on more responsibility. Be savvy about it. Be aware of the politics and be smart about your approach. A high-profile project or one that reaches beyond your usual scope can increase both your visibility and your stature.
Be Consistently Proactive
Observe. Anticipate. Intuit. Pursue. Don't be a passive employee. Be the employee who is aware of department and company developments and understands the consequences. Think of work as a collaboration, even if the hierarchy suggests otherwise. Think of these conversations as "We need to do this and I can get started on X and Y while we wait for word on Z." Or "What do you think about A? Is B or C a factor here?" Don't wait around for your supervisor to assign you tasks. Don't wait for your colleagues to deliver an emergency. You should know your co-workers well enough to know how they work. Anticipate office needs and meet them without prompting. This shows insight on your part, as well as a symbiotic relationship between you and your colleagues. Management appreciates self-starters and independent workers.
Don't Indulge In Office Gossip
Office gossip may seem inescapable but if times are tight and jobs are on the line it is in your best interest to keep quiet and stay neutral. If you indulge in office gossip, collective complaining, and idol rumors, you risk running a certain reputation - that you're ungrateful, unenthusiastic, untrustworthy. Worse, something you say, or implicitly condone by way of association, can offend someone who is in the position of determining your professional fate. Naturally, it is a comfort to have co-workers who share in the trials and tribulations of office life but selecting a few close confidants can serve the same purpose.
Expand Your Viewpoint
The office grapevine is only going to tell you so much, and with varying accuracy. Keep track of your company: read trade and general publications, follow the markets and local business news, set online alerts to deliver immediate posts and mentions. With a sense of the larger picture, you can better prepare yourself for how it will trickle down to you and your role in the company.
Also, even if you don't directly deal with the profits and expenditures of your company, keep in mind the bottom line. Look for ways your department or team can save money, whether reducing waste or personal expenses, sourcing different technology, improving freelance oversight, or other ways that you spend money without real accountability. Be accountable and share in the task of shaving off expense.
Prepare For The Worst
You need to think practically about losing your job. A layoff is devastating enough. Not being prepared makes it worse.
- Assess your savings and estimate how many months you can live without salary; begin stockpiling savings and seek financial consultation on how to handle debt, insurance, and other embedded spending.
- Update your resume, cover letter, portfolio, online and social profiles, references and letters of recommendation, and other relevant job search material. Make personal copies of internal reviews and evaluations.
- If your identity is linked to company phone numbers or email addresses, update or initiate new accounts to ensure uninterrupted access.
- Transfer personal files from your office computer to your home computer or a neutral computing cloud.
- Familiarize yourself with employee rights in case of termination: unemployment benefits, COBRA health plans, retirement rollover plans, and final paycheck policies. Take advantage of your health benefits now.
- Consider if an additional degree, diploma, or certification would help your competitiveness in the workforce.
Networking is part and parcel of any job search. It may be part and parcel of your job now. If you're not already in networking mode and you feel your job is at risk, you need to start networking. Start reaching out to people you know in the industry, sign up for conferences, join organizations, attend events. Current technology makes online social networking a breeze. Update your professional self and edit any personal clutter that may have accumulated in the safe space of your employment. Be sure to remove anything from the Internet that could damage your professional image. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the current social networking standouts but pursue smaller or industry-specific networks, as well.
- "5 New Tips for Job Security" by Elaine Pofeldt, MoneyWatch.com (http://moneywatch.bnet.com/career-advice/article/job-security-5-new-rules-to-get-your-next-job-or-keep-your-current-one/376870/)
- "7 Tips for Job Security in a Bad Economy", CIO (http://www.cio.com/article/466823/IT_Careers_7_Tips_for_Job_Security_in_a_Bad_Economy?page=3&taxonomyId=3123)
- "Worried About Your Job Security, SixWise.com (http://www.sixwise.com/Newsletters/2009/April/01/Worried-About-Your-Job-Security.htm)
- "How To Prepare For A Layoff" by David Weliver, Money Under 30 (http://www.moneyunder30.com/prepare-layoff)
- "Knowing Your Employee Rights (If You Get Laid Off) by Lauren Fairbanks, LifeStyler (http://www.lifestylermag.com/career/knowing-your-employee-rights-if-you-get-laid-off)
- "Preparing For Your Impending Layoff from AOL" by Joe Loong (http://www.joelogon.com/blog/2009/02/preparing-for-your-impending-layoff.html)