While the greatest challenge for some during this economic trough is applying for a job and getting hired, which certainly has its difficulties, a less talked-about challenge that others face is keeping their jobs when others are being laid off.
Budget cuts have a way of sharpening managers’ eyes and ears, and they tend to raise standards office-wide. Fair or otherwise, what might have been considered acceptable previously might now be grounds for a layoff, and sometimes good employees are let go because they are no longer good enough.
The trick, then, is to make yourself invaluable to the company. When the bosses are talking about who to let go, if your name comes up, you want them to say, “No, absolutely not! We need (insert your name here)!”
How do you make yourself invaluable?
- Go beyond your job description. Part of what makes an invaluable employee is the ability and initiative to take on work that may not necessarily be in his or her job description. In difficult times, invaluable employees will rise above and adapt to the situation. Be willing to assist with projects that might not be in your job description when you sense there’s a problem, and do whatever it takes to see the project through to the end.
- Be a light in the dullness. Everyone knows that offices are boring. To become invaluable you need to lighten the atmosphere — be the smiling face that everyone needs to see, the quirky, energetic character that makes work fun. Most people are afraid to be creative because they fear rejection, but creativity produces the best ideas and is rewarded. So be creative and fun. But always know when to turn it off and buckle down. Knowing the difference makes you even more invaluable.
- Practice diplomacy. Developing your sensitivity to office politics will help cement your position in the office. Encourage and laud your colleagues publically to raise morale, and raise concerns that might be controversial in public to avert a panic.
- Find what drives you to be the best. Then be the best. Often what separates a good employee from an invaluable one is a personal drive. For some it is a desire to prove themselves; for others, just an insatiable need for praise or respect. Whatever it is, find it in yourself and use it to be outstanding. It doesn’t matter if what drives you isn’t a noble, abstract virtue. Wanting to be applauded is good enough, and if it gets the job done, what is the difference?
- Never let “good enough” be good enough. There is always room for improvement, and to be invaluable, that needs to be your mantra. While others settle comfortably into a process, question whether the process could be made better. Or better yet, make it better. Do this with every detail and you will be truly invaluable.
Layoffs can be scary, but if you work to make yourself invaluable rather than working just to work, you will keep your job and impress your managers. You might even get a raise.