Keeping Your Job in a Tough Economy

If you work at a company that’s going through tough times, the likelihood is that you’ve witnessed at least one layoff and maybe you worry that more might be coming, but if you want to keep your current job, you should know that there are positive steps you can take to improve your chances of staying.

I’ve been on both ends of layoffs. When I worked for HMV, I was let go when the company closed its US operation. Then when I worked for Acclaim Entertainment, I was in the unfortunate position of being the senior HR executive as the company slid slowly into bankruptcy. I can’t remember how many lay-offs we went through in my 3 years there but it must have been at least 5 and every one of them was soul-destroying.

Not only was it horrible to look at lists of names and decide who stayed and who went, but it was also difficult to get managers to choose who to let go. They were attached to all their employees, liked most of them as people, knew their families and hated to hurt them financially. But they had to make choices and when they did, here was their criteria: Who adds the most value?

Some people were obvious layoff targets. We had a telecommunications manager for example and in a company our size, that really didn’t need to be a full-time job. Others were in crucial positions but maybe we had to cut back from four people to two.

No matter what the situation, it always came down to that key question: Who adds the most value?

3 Tips for Keeping Your Job in a Tough Economy

So given that key question and based on my own experience, here are my tips for making yourself as indispensable as possible.

1) Consider your position. If you were suddenly put in charge of the company and told to turn it around within a year, would you consider your position indispensable? If you’re like our telecommunications manager and the answer is ‘no’ then you need to take some action. You need to start helping out in other areas. For example, our telecommunications manager reported to IT – if he had expanded his skill set and learned to troubleshoot computers as well as phones, maybe he wouldn’t have been the one laid off. After all, the other IT guys just knew computers but he would have known both.

2) Consider your contribution. If your position is not dispensable but there are others who hold the same role, evaluate your contribution against theirs. Be brutal with yourself. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you could. Working as hard as you could. Contributing as much as you could. If the answer is no, change that now.

3) Bottom line? Add more value. No matter what type of position you have, talk to your manager about how you can help him or her. You may feel resentful or angry at management and that’s understandable, but these are tough times for them too. I can’t tell you how many times managers have cried in my office over having to make lay-off decisions and/or over the stress of the resulting additional workload. They are being asked to do more with fewer people and they are probably losing sleep over it. So talk to your manager about how you can take on extra work to help ease the burden. Doing this is guaranteed to raise your chances of avoiding a pink slip.

I don\’t mean to sound “Pollyanna” and pretend this is all in your hands. These are tough times and even after all your best efforts, your company may still have to let you go. But they may not – and wouldn’t you feel better if you took matters into your own hands instead of just waiting for the axe to fall?

Plus, if the worst does happen, adding more value and taking on more responsibility is always going to help you on the way to your next job. Your resume will be stronger and your background more impressive because you found new ways to add value.

So those are my key tips for holding on to a job in tough times. What do you think? Did I miss any? If so, please let me know in the comments.

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