strategies to stay employed
By Susan Bowles, special
for the USA
TODAY Careers Network
was up at work. Her manager wasn't talking to
her; her Fortune 100 company was downsizing; and
she feared for her job. Drawing on the contacts
she'd made over the years in other departments,
she wrangled an internal transfer.
Good thing. Her original job
was cut. If she'd hunkered down, kept her mouth
shut and hoped for the best, she'd be unemployed.
The employee -- a friend of
career expert Sarah Michel -- followed a cardinal
rule in the career wars: Be alert. Know what's
going on in your company and note changes in how
people treat you.
"There are just no guarantees
anymore," says Michel, owner and president of
Perfecting Connecting in Colorado Springs. "You
have to have an entrepreneurial attitude."
Careers ebb and flow, says
Robin Ryan, a Seattle-based career coach and author
of What To Do With The Rest Of Your Life. But
in today's economy, you can't afford to wait.
Companies are quick to cut dead weight.
Be aware of signs you or your
department may be on its way out:
- Are you getting passed over
- Are you hearing about meetings
you weren't invited to?
- Is your manager avoiding
you or going to your team directly?
- Have you been taken off
a committee or special project?
- Has the money earmarked
for your department dried up?
- Are you hearing rumors your
company is downsizing, your department may be
absorbed by another or your role is under scrutiny?
If any of these red flags hits
close to home, you aren't necessarily destined
to lose your job. But you are going to have to
reestablish yourself. Use these 10 strategies
to stay employed:
Go to your manager, your boss or your boss's boss.
Tell them what you've observed, then ask if your
perceptions are correct. Is this a performance
issue? Is there a skill you're lacking? Is there
another opportunity within the organization that
might fit your strengths?
"Be willing to have the
difficult conversations," says Susan Bixler, president
of The Professional Image in Atlanta.
2. Seek help.
Approaching a superior about your shortcomings
can be intimidating. So ask a trusted colleague
to help, Bixler says. Practice approaching your
boss by role-playing with your co-worker.
Listen to what colleagues are
saying. "Most people just get so rigid when they're
scared," Bixler says.
3. Get noticed.
Networking inside your organization can go a long
way toward keeping you from being devalued, Michel
Look for opportunities to volunteer
and pick your projects wisely. Planning the office
Christmas party won't enhance your career like
sitting on a CEO-led committee to upgrade the
company's computer system, Ryan says.
The goal is to meet and prove
your value to as many managers and staff as possible.
This will enhance your reputation inside the firm
and help if you do find yourself looking for work.
Folks outside your department can be valuable
4. Generate ideas.
Come up with two or three strategies to improve
your job or department, and then take these to
your boss. "People who get ahead don't sit back
waiting for the boss to think of ideas," Ryan
says. "You've got to initiate."
5. Dress the part.
If you feel unappreciated or fear for your job,
it's tempting to adopt a low profile. Don't make
this mistake, Bixler says. Dress well to meet
any customer, vendor or person in the company
without apology. The effort will boost your confidence
and communicate professionalism.
6. Note your behavior.
Take stock of your behavior. Do you make eye contact?
Speak in an appropriate tone? Don't let job uncertainty
cast you as a victim. And don't let it fester
into a bitter, put-upon attitude. "Get rid of
the cynicism," Bixler says.
7. Don't get defensive.
Companies want energetic employees who put the
business first and consistently add value. Instead
of sulking, look at your performance through your
supervisor's eyes. "If I were my boss," Bixler
asks, "would I keep me?"
8. Build an accomplishment
Keep any letters or e-mail from customers, vendors
or coworkers that praises your work and build
a "pat on the back" file. This will offer evidence
of your value to the company and it also logs
accomplishments you can transfer to your resume.
9. Be prepared to
Don't expect to make a sudden comeback if your
corporate value is in question. Repositioning
yourself takes time and effort, Ryan says. Give
yourself six months to a year to change perceptions
and make up lost ground.
10. Keep your resume
People leave companies for many reasons. Even
stellar employees can be forced out if their companies
change direction, merge or divest.
Be prepared: Use that accomplishment
file to update your resume every few months. Never
assume you have total job protection. "Don't think
you're indispensable because everybody likes you,"
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