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Posted: January 06, 2010

10 ways to make sure you keep your job

Guess what? Nobody's indispensable -- even you

John Heckers

I know that I'm going to get some very nasty comments on this one, but I have to give you some hard-core common sense. Unemployment, combined with underemployment, is at about 30 percent for executives, and running at about 25 percent for non-executives. This means that, if you don't do your job with a great deal of dedication and zeal, there are 10 other people who will be very happy to take your place and let you watch daytime TV for a while.

Many people, especially the younger generations, want to have a work/life "balance." This is fine when people are hard to find and companies are expanding. We still have at least two years before that is going to be a reality in most American cities, although Denver is in better shape than most. But a work/life balance simply makes you a large target for the next lay-off or termination in a tight economy. Here are some tips to stay employed during this time.

1). Do more with less. Stretch your resources. Try not to ask the boss for more materials, more staff or more money. Get creative with your problem-solving.

2). Guerilla market. Guerilla marketing means utilizing every free and cheap resource that there is out there to get your product known. We use personal networking, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, newsletters, free events, press releases and everything else we are able to keep from spending money on advertising. Of course, advertising is a must in these days. But in boom times people get lazy and concentrate on just placing ads. Use every other method to keep your ad costs reasonable.

3). Work harder. The 40-hour week? Extinct! You're lucky if you can work a 50-hour week these days. Most executives regularly work a 60-hour week or greater. And even if you're an admin, your job is much more secure if you're around when your boss needs you. Those who hang out at the workplace are much more secure than those who rush home to be with the family or to do recreational things.

4). Get used to working weekends and other traditionally "off" times. Business right now is incredibly cut-throat. If you don't make a deadline, it can cost your company tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of those dollars pay for your job. If you've just missed a deadline, you might well get fired or laid off. Forget the concept of "your time." If you want to keep getting a paycheck, meet deadlines and produce.

5). Dress better. Forget the cut-offs, flip-flops and T-shirts. If you want to remain employed, much less move up in the company, dress as well as you can given the corporate culture, not as comfortably as you can. If everyone else is "grubby," dress "business casual." A good rule of thumb is to dress as close as possible to the way that people one or two levels above you dress. If you look like them, you soon will be one of them. This is human nature.

6). Improve yourself. Maybe now is the time to get an on-line sheepskin, or advanced degree. Perhaps a certification in something like project management or a new IT system would help. See what your company (and other companies) might be looking for in a hire, and make yourself into that person.

7). Ramp up your network. Whether you're employed or unemployed, you need a network these days. Get to networking events. Dress in business/professional for these events. This means a tie and suit, gentlemen, and a very nice suit or professional dress for the ladies. Forget "sexy." Go for the solid, professional look.

8). Make yourself useful. Look for ways in your company to make yourself indispensible. Be the one who always volunteers for anything you can do well.

9). Take on only what you can execute flawlessly. However, don't pile project after project on yourself. Flawless execution is more important that an overflowing plate.

10). Follow "the rules." Find out what your corporate culture expects and toe the line. This is not the time for rebellion if you value your job. Keep your mouth mostly shut and follow the corporate expectations to a "T."

By following these 10 tips, you will make yourself a more valuable asset to your corporation and greatly increase your chances of retaining employment. While there are many new jobs out there, it is quite a bit easier, and less anxiety-producing, to keep the one you have now.

To a prosperous 2010!

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

John, I love readying your tips. This one is excellent in the focus to do the job, add the value and be professional. I have one question that may be the subject of another column: if someone does this and finds themselves unemployed then what do they do? Many people who have been doing all or 9 of the items listed have found themselves blindsided by companies who cut these high talent individuals as quickly as they did the "flip flop, its a job man" staff. By Jeff Fischer on 2010 01 06
I'm not sure what to make of Mr. Heckers. This is at least the third column from him that berates workers during the recession. Work longer, harder, do more ... they are in each one. He isn't wrong. At least, most of the time. For instance, it makes sense that your job is more secure if you are around when your boss needs you. But, if you have worked out a schedule with your boss that allows you to pick up kids in a timely manner, and your boss is perfectly agreeable, then it seems logical that there are times you will and can be gone and still be secure. Work life isn't as cut and dried as Mr. Heckers tries to make it. And comments like "dress like those one or two levels above" have been around for ages. This column in particular seems like Mr. Heckers is trying too hard to be controversial. The tone of the article is more aggressive than the content warrants. Still, I read his columns when I can. They are good reminders that this is a difficult time. By Ottis on 2010 01 06

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