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Do's and Don'ts of Keeping Your Job (In Good Times -- and Bad)
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Whether you love your job, hate your job, or simply see it as a means to an end, there are times when your focus is less on job satisfaction and more on job preservation. When your profession or industry is on the decline or when the economy is in the tank and employers are cutting jobs at a dizzying pace, it's time to hunker down and focus more on protecting your position within the organization.
With this goal of job preservation in mind, here are some crucial do's and don'ts (rules and guidelines) for helping currently employed workers keep your job -- and these techniques can be used both in good times, as well as in bad times.
- Do your job well. Too obvious? Perhaps, but if you generally aren't happy with your job, it shows in your job performance, so now is the time to step it up and show that you can excel in your job (whether you love it or hate it).
- Don't stand out for the wrong reasons. Now is not the time to complain about the snacks in the breakroom, argue over the temperature in the office, or otherwise act as if you are entitled to things your employer doesn't currently offer.
- Do keep your boss informed of your activities, especially as you finish major projects. If your boss isn't aware of all your accomplishments, it makes it much easier for him or her to see you as expendable when budgets are cut. And do listen to what your boss says -- and try and find ways to make his/her job easier. Keep a "paper" trail by emailing your boss with weekly updates or progress reports.
- Don't even think about gossiping. It's best to stay as far away from the office water cooler and any of the regular gossipers because the easiest workers for management to cut are the ones perceived to be the unhappy (and ungrateful) bunch. But do keep an ear to the ground (and an eye toward Google alerts about your employer) so that you are not blindsided by bad news.
- Do volunteer for new projects or to help complete tasks previously done by others who have already been laid off. Showing your care and concern -- even if it makes your job harder and longer -- goes a long way to securing your spot with the organization.
- Don't be negative -- about anything. You don't have to walk around the workplace as if you have popped some happy pills, but you don't want be perceived as Doug the Downer, so no trash-talking or bad-mouthing about work, the economy, the climate crisis, and so on.
- Do focus on maintaining current skills and certifications -- and obtaining new ones that make sense for your career. Even if these skills and certifications are not appreciated by your current employer, you'll want to be prepared to show your next employer that you are on the cutting edge for your field.
- Don't grab the limelight. While it's important for your boss (and his or her boss) to know that you are performing great work, you don't want to be seen as a prima donna who does not recognize the work of others. Make sure the boss knows of the accomplishments, but make sure the team also gets the credit. Don't bad-mouth or backstab of any team members.
- Do continue networking -- both within and outside your employer. Building relationships is the name of the game in job-hunting and career success. You can build your reputation and better protect your position with a strong internal network. By increasing your network outside the organization, you increase your chances of succeeding in your job-search should you lose your job.
- Don't forget about developing a back-up plan. Your employer is in trouble, your industry is shrinking, and you can't just go to work and pretend that everything is fine. Develop a plan for dealing with a potential layoff, including a job-search strategy and a savings and budget plan.
- Do keep an open mind. You may be asked to work two jobs or take on responsibilities you never imagined -- or that you know you won't like -- but now is the time to be open to new job duties and responsibilities, especially if it means securing your position for at least the short-term.
- Don't ask for a promotion or raise. If the organization is struggling and workers are being laidoff, you'll look like either a fool or an egomaniac in asking for a promotion or raise.
- Do become a "company man" or "company woman." Now is the time to arrive to work early and stay late -- and work hard all day long. Face time is especially important, so don't telecommute -- or don't telecommute as often as you did in the past.
- Don't give up. If it appears as though your job is in serious trouble, you may be able to negotiate with your employer to keep your job by working fewer hours, by taking a temporary pay cut, or by becoming an independent contractor.
- Do keep your resume current. While it's a good practice to always to keep your resume regularly updated with your most recent accomplishments, it's especially important in times when your current position is not very secure.
- Don't lose sight of your goals. While you may feel stuck in your current job -- with no short-term options for escape -- stay focused on your long-term job and career strategies. While you may need to adjust your timetable, do your best to keep building toward your goals.
- Do look for opportunities to build your brand -- and possibly land a better job. While you may need to be more conservative about saying how great you at the office, it's still important to build your brand both within your company and within your profession. Consider writing position papers or other articles for your professional association, developing or enhancing your personal Website, and maximizing the use of social networking sites -- all with the idea of strengthening your digital presence.
- Don't stop job-hunting. Even in a horrible economy, some employers are still hiring. Job-hunting will take much more time, energy, patience, and persistence, but you can find a new job in any economy if you have the right plan and execute it well. Just don't advertise the fact that you are looking for a new job.
Most of us will face times in our lives when we have to maximize our efforts to protect and keep our jobs -- even for jobs that we may not particularly like or enjoy. By following the advice in this article, you'll use proven techniques for helping you fight for your current job while also keeping a foot in the job market so that you are ready to find a better job when the opportunity arises.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.
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