Since the economic meltdown of 2008, when millions of jobs were lost, the U.S. economy has made great strides toward a full recovery. Even so, the monthly jobs reports still often look grim, and we’re still hearing about large layoffs regularly.
Even when the economy is good, layoffs are always a possibility due to a number of factors. While sometimes losing your job is unavoidable — your company shuts down or moves out of the country — with a few savvy strategies you can improve your chances of surviving the chopping block.
Earn a New Certification or Learn a Skill
One of the best ways to make yourself indispensable to your organization to offer something that no one else can. When you have a skill — for example, a particular software program or an understanding of social media — no one else has, your boss may be reluctant to let you go and lose the benefit you bring to the team. Not to mention, being willing to gain new skills beyond your Bachelor of Arts in Management or other undergraduate degree shows your commitment to continuous growth and improvement, something always attractive to employers.
Ask for Feedback and Sharing Results
When it comes to doing your job better and keeping your boss invested in you, the best way to know where to start is by asking. Most employees wait until their annual performance review to learn about the areas in which they are doing well or could use some improvement, but if you have several months before your next review, it could be too late to keep yourself off the layoff list when you hear about the things needing improvement. Look for opportunities to seek feedback from your boss; you don’t want to pop into his or her office every day asking about your performance, but try to have a conversation every few months about what you’re working on and whether or not he or she has any constructive advice for you. Once you get that feedback, act on it. Showing your boss you can accept feedback and use it to improve shows your commitment to your job.
Not only should you ask for feedback, share wins as well. Learn to toot your horn once in a while (key words: once in a while) and let your boss know when things go well. Again, you don’t want to wait until the end of the year and have to remind your boss of all the great things you’ve accomplished.
Identify Opportunities and Vulnerabilities
Nothing happens in a vacuum, and you’ll much more effectively communicate ideas and develop strategies if you understand what’s happening in your industry. Read industry publications, follow the news and pay attention to things happening outside of your company. This way, when you need to contribute new ideas, you have some background on which to base your suggestions. And again, by keeping your finger on your industry’s pulse, you’re showing your commitment to your career and your company, which appeals to employers.
Contribute Your Ideas
Are you an “invisible” employee? Do you come to work, do your tasks and go home? When your boss asks for ideas, do you look around the conference table and hope someone else answers first? If so, you could be putting yourself first in line for a layoff. While flying under the radar may seem like a good strategy to avoid losing your job, it also gives the impression you aren’t confident or interested in your work, or you simply don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to make an impact. Don’t be afraid to speak up when necessary. You don’t have to be a bull in a china shop, but showing initiative will prove your value.
Build Strong Relationships Throughout the Organization
Building relationships across the organization accomplishes several things. First, employers are often hesitant to let go of people who are well liked. More importantly, though, getting to know people in other departments at all levels helps you stay in the know; when you know someone in accounting or the mailroom, you become the “go-to” person for answers and problem-solving, and learn more about what’s happening in the company at all levels. And should things go awry and you end up getting a pink slip, knowing people in other areas may help you make a lateral move in the company instead of landing in the unemployment line.
Sometimes layoffs are unavoidable, but if you even suspect downsizing could hit your company, it’s time to take some preventive measures. Make yourself indispensable and you’ll have a better chance of staying employed.
About the Author: Nancy Grant has an MBA and more than a decade of experience in career counseling.