I went to an engineering meeting last night. I heard from one of the members that there are going to be thousands more layoffs of information technology professionals in the area. While it didn’t surprise me, it did get me thinking. When the economy is sputtering, working people need another strategy. Here’s what I would do.
You need two strategies. One strategy is how to stay employed. The second strategy is how to get the next job. Here’s how you can execute the first strategy. Make sure that you are delivering on time all the work you promise your manager. The work must be high quality and demonstrate your knowledge of your business. Delivering junk in a down market earns you the dubious award of being the first one asked to go. Instead of a slacker, I want to be perceived as someone who is needed in the organization. Who is needed? Someone who is reliable. Someone who produces good work. While you don’t have control over layoffs in an entire department, you do have control over how people think of you. Even with entire departments, with a great work reputation, you might be able to get work in another surviving department if you are thought of highly.
This leads to the second survival strategy. Get out of your department! No, I don’t mean for you to go running away from your teammates. I do mean that you had better get to know other people in other departments in your organization. How can you get a lifeline to another department if other people don’t know you or your work? How do you get to know people in other departments? Look around at the teams that are formed in your organization. Pick a team and join one or express an interest to your manager that you want to join one. Sure there’s extra work. The work is like an investment in your job security bank account. The more people that know you, like you and value your work, the better your chances are that someone will throw you a lifeline if your current department gets the ax.
So what happens if despite your best efforts you get the pink slip? You still have a full time job. It’s finding your next job. When you are looking, it will be much easier for you if you’ve been executing well your stay employed strategy. Why? If you have done a good job, you have a good reputation. Do you think people don’t talk? They do. Furthermore, you’ll need good references. Having your former employer say constructive things about your work is important for the next company to be sold on you.
Even more important is to tap into your network of people who know you, your work and your reputation. Are you going to business groups on a regular basis where people know you? Start now. Do more than just attend the meetings. Get involved in leadership. You’ll get to know more people, they’ll see you in a leadership role, and they’ll be able to recommend you to the professionals they know.
The economy may be slowing down, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Instead, when times are tough, you need to do more, not less to stay employed.