Many heads have rolled during the current financial crisis. But how do you make sure you are not the next one in line at the guillotine of cost cutting? Try some of AM’s tips on how to keep your job during this downturn.
Around the world, companies are cutting costs, be it raw materials, advertising or sourcing. That’s all you ever hear on the news anymore. But it’s not the cost cutting itself, rather one particular approach to it that has people worried-downsizing.
Grim statistics have shown that many have already been made redundant, like in the US, where 53,300 jobs were lost last November and the unemployment rate rose to a high of 6.7 per cent. In the UAE, experts predict, up to 45 per cent of the construction workforce could be laid off.
Another example of the turmoil is financial giant Barclays, which has plans to lay off at least 3,000 employees to eliminate job duplications. Simply put, no one is irreplaceable, and only time will tell who lasts and who doesn’t.
Stephen Viscusi, author of ‘Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work’, asserts that in this atmosphere, “You must understand that your job is your most valuable asset - and your primary objective is to protect it.” So, if you want to keep your job, convince the higher-ups you’re indispensable. For this, it’s important to take note of two facts:
1. The things that seem important in a good economy may not be so in a bad economy. When the economy slows down, a lot of those things that seemed important will pale in comparison to the need to quickly optimise your processes, cut costs and increase revenue.
2. Being valuable is more important than being important. It doesn’t really matter where you sit in the organisation. In tough times, being a contributor who can be counted on to do the important work is more important than being ‘important’. Demonstrating that you can help right the ship, through insights into new products or services, cutting costs or an understanding of market trends is much more valuable at this point.
Time for action
AM makes some suggestions on how you can weather this storm of cost cutting. In this unreliable climate, anything can work for you, so give it a shot.
Visibility is perhaps the most important element in this quest to keep your job, because if you’re not noticeable, then you might as well not be there. If nobody knows your contributions, then nobody will remember you, and you will not have any form of backing when the time comes for job cuts. Thus, it’s vital to be visible at the right times and places, demonstrating your value until your name gets stuck in their heads as someone who makes things happen.
For that, you need to develop an understanding of the whole business, rather than the part that relates only to you. “You need to take the lid off your thinking and take a look at how what you do relates to the rest of the business,” says Abu Dhabi-based Dale Kurow, a career consultant. “If you don’t know how your part in the business is connected to the others, chances are, you’re not going very far.”
Here are some simple guidelines on being visible:
- Arrive early and stay late, and let your boss see your commitment to work
- Pay attention to your apparel and your appearance. Make sure your office attire is appropriate
- Develop an eye for small details
- Listen, and when appropriate, speak up. Introduce yourself. Prepare your 30-second personal pitch, or ‘elevator pitch’, that explains who you are and what you’re all about
- Join special committees or even help organise a companywide social engagement
Once you’ve made yourself prominent, it’s time to fulfill your promise and rise to the expectations you’ve created. Get involved with everything you possibly can. Go to industry conferences and show that you are the ‘go-to’ guy. Be a ‘utility player’, and, at the same time, cultivate a role as a specialist on the job (or in some of the tasks that you perform). Exceeding expectations sometimes requires an investment of time and effort, but you can just as effectively impress the boss with creativity and efficiency.
Establishing yourself as a leader could make the difference between moving up or being moved out. Always strive for excellent performance evaluations, attempt to bring business into your company, share contacts that you feel will help in growing the business, and look for ways that will help save the company money.
Just remember, stars don’t get laid off. Bosses will go to almost any length to keep the members of their teams that they consider to be stars. But becoming a star involves a lot of hard work, constantly exceeding expectations and contributing to the organisation as a whole, not just to your narrowly defined job responsibilities.
Look to improve processes and fill gaps in the work environment. For that, you would really have to keep your skills up-to-date. Once you identify the gaps between your company’s needs and the skills you currently possess, immediately invest in appropriate training. Also, not every improved skill needs to be technical; the ability to communicate or have business understanding will improve your standing in the job queue. If your written communication skills are lacking, take a writing class, or maybe a public speaking class to improve your verbal abilities. It’s no use being the most brilliant technical person if you cannot articulate this to people with less knowledge. Enthusiasm for learning and growth is the key.
Employees should focus on bringing a positive attitude to the work place. The first person to get laid off is the person who is negative. Complaining is a sure job buster. With all the financial and managerial stresses, now is not the time to complain. Bottle it all up. Many consultants warn their clients of the ‘open door policy’ during this trying period. They believe that during a crisis, when your boss asks “How Are Things?” or “What’s wrong?”, always respond to the former with “Fantastic” and never, never respond to the latter with anything other than “Nothing! Everything’s just great”. Silence is golden, and there is no better time to abide by that adage.
Be someone’s aide
“Partner with the CEO,” says Ana Dutra, CEO of the Leadership Development Solutions group for Korn/Ferry International, “and with the corporate leadership.” Staying in a job is about building relationships, and while it’s always important to work well with your peers, developing a close relationship with a mentor, particularly with someone higher up, could prove to be extremely worthwhile as you would now have someone to stand up for you, and perhaps reverse any negative decision.
Even if you’re lucky enough to keep your job, that’s only half the battle won. The other half involves the grunt work that nobody likes, as when companies get smaller, the remaining staff is required to multi-task. Now is the time to stay at work long hours, keep your head, keep your mouth shut, and thank your lucky stars that you even still have a job. Forget all other things. Your job is your number one priority, and ensuring that your bosses believe that their decision to retain you is justified, remains your priority. That is all that matters.
While these strategies may help, always remember that in such a volatile situation, there are never any guarantees. The truth is that layoff decisions are often made for reasons that have nothing to do with performance. Even future employers know that getting laid off is no reflection on your value as an employee or a person. So keep that chin up and take it as it comes.
Article by: Arabian Man