Q: What’s the best way to protect myself in my current job?
A: There are some steps that you can take now to help solidify your job. If your employer is hemorrhaging money, there are no guarantees that any of these suggestions will immunize you from being laid off. However, by being positive and proactive in managing your own career, you will be better able to present yourself as a valuable employee, either in your current job, or to a new employer.
Present a positive attitude. Attitude is always a key component of job success and longevity, but never more so than in a difficult economic climate. Avoid spending time with the doomsayers at your company; collective worry and gossip about who will be laid off next is not productive. Instead, force yourself to appear optimistic and cheerful when you are at work, even if you are feeling stressed, overworked, and uncertain. Have a smile on your face when you come in early and leave late; you want to convey the impression that you are a hard-working, caring, and productive employee.
Always volunteer. Ask how you can help when your boss or others on your team seem overworked. Volunteer to take the lead on an upcoming project, especially one that will have visibility beyond your own department. You will be building your reputation as an employee who can contribute to the company’s success. If your company has a mentoring program, volunteer to become one for a new employee or try to find a mentor for yourself who can help you get to know more people in your company.
Make yourself irreplaceable. While no one is truly irreplaceable, try to make yourself as valuable as possible to the team. Work on developing a skill or expertise that is essential for the success of your team, and perhaps that only you possess. Let your supervisor know that he or she can rely on you; become the “go-to” person in your department for something important. Try to look beyond how busy the day-to-day work is, and anticipate the direction that your field or your company is headed.
Learn something new. Be the first to sign up for additional training. Seek out ways to improve your skills that will help you grow professionally, even if the training is at your own expense, or on your own time. This can be an invaluable investment in your future employability, whether with your present employer or somewhere new.
Network like it’s 2009. Invest now in expanding and nurturing your professional network, even if you’re not actively looking now for a new job opportunity. Commit to attending one networking event, scheduling lunch or coffee with a network contact, or at least having an outreach phone call with someone outside of your office once a week. Make sure that your online professional network profiles are up-to-date and complete.
For more suggestions, you may want to check out the book entitled Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out on Top at Work by Stephen Viscusi.