Avoid the Layoff: Six Tips to Become Irreplaceable

Contributor:  Dr. Lawrence Shatkin
Posted:  05/04/2009  5:22:00 PM EDT
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How to Achieve Job Retention and Make Yourself an Irreplaceable Employee

Although the economy is showing some signs that it may be leveling off from its long plunge into recession, the number of layoffs still outweighs the number of new hires. Like most people, you may be wondering how secure your own job is and how to retain your job. In fact, even before the economic crisis began, most employees’ jobs were less secure than they were a generation ago. Employers no longer feel obligated to retain employees when there’s any chance of profiting by hiring consultants, offshoring the work, applying automation or finding some other way to slash payroll expenses.

Nevertheless, certain employees are secure in their jobs because they are irreplaceable. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them and make sure you retain your job?

Six Tips for Becoming an Irreplaceable Employee and Retaining Your Job

1. Focus on your employer’s core mission. Every business has a central function that is the key to its success. As the business attempts to diversify by taking on other roles, perhaps by entering new markets, you may be tempted to serve a peripheral function because it is interesting, perhaps even pioneering. But beware of getting out of the mainstream of your employer’s business. When times are hard, the company is likely to lay off the business units that do not serve its core mission.

2. Keep your skills up to date. It is your responsibility, not your employer’s, to identify the skills you need and to make sure you get the necessary training. One way to do both is to join a professional association and attend its meetings and workshops. Blogs and trade publications that cover your industry may also provide hints about what new skills you should be acquiring.

3. Be highly productive. Your improved skills will help you turn out work that is of better quality and quantity. You may also consider doing the tasks that other employees are avoiding. Working longer hours after the boss leaves may not be useful if the results of your extra work are not visible.

4. Be visible. You may have noticed that the employee who gets the best raise each year is the one who sits closest to the boss’s office. It helps for your employer to know who you are and what great work you’re doing. Consider starting a newsletter, bulletin board, blog, or Twitter feed about your current project. Invite suggestions from readers so that they will buy into your project and so your communications will not look purely self-promotional. Blogging or tweeting will also gain you visibility in your industry, which is helpful in case this job comes to an end. If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to maintain a blog, consider being a frequent commenter on an existing blog. Also, volunteer to serve on a committee for your professional association; they always need willing workers.

5. Acquire a mentor. Find someone who is knowledgeable about the business. Be helpful to this person and ask a lot of very specific questions, especially about how to improve your work. Be sure to give public recognition to the mentor for the advice you get.

6. Be pleasant. Being abrasive may make you stand out, but for the wrong reasons. Back-stabbing may seem like a way to get ahead, but it can backfire on you. Even though performance appraisals attempt to reduce job performance to hard, measurable facts, things people say about you informally still have a huge impact on your employer’s perceptions of you.

Adapted from 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs (JIST Works).
Dr. Lawrence Shatkin Contributor:   Dr. Lawrence Shatkin




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