Downturns, layoffs, and right-sizing are words that strike fear in the hearts of many people currently employed. In work places around the country workers are rightfully preoccupied with the threat of losing their jobs. While there is no single solution that will work in any individual case, there are things that you can do to improve your situation. It is a fallacy to think that you are powerless; to believe that what you do and how you do it doesn’t contribute mightily to the quality of your future. Bad things can happen to good people, of course. While life may not be fair you shouldn’t rest until you’ve done all that you can do to ensure your future. Let the action steps listed below guide you toward better job security.
The Action Steps:
Understand your company’s vision for itself. Understand the implicit and explicit promises that your company makes to its customers. Talk to your boss. Understand what the company is saying about itself to its customers and to the marketplace in general. Read the company’s literature. When you truly understand these concepts, get with the program. Look to align your daily work priorities with those goals. Ask yourself how everything that you do is furthering the company’s objectives. If you don’t know, find out or change your ways.
Lose your sense of entitlement. It used to be that having a job today was a good guarantee that you’d have that job tomorrow. That time has passed. That thinking is obsolete. Many workers, particularly older workers, are comfortable with the way “we‘ve always done things.” They resist change or make grudging accommodations to new initiatives. They often sit back and wait for things to fail. Companies tend to see those workers as barriers to progress. Their foot-dragging is seen as a negative and people who do that do so at their peril. While it is natural to fall into comfortable routines, you must realize that things are just moving too fast to indulge yourself. Yesterday’s formula for success can easily be tomorrow’s recipe for failure as competitors change and customers’ choices and expectations expand. Go to work every day and earn the right to be there tomorrow.
Learn today’s technology. Smart phones, the Internet, social networking sites, text messaging, file sharing and the like are not the fads of children. They are the necessities for doing business and making a profit in the modern world of business. E-mail is not a passing fad. You don’t have to learn the names of the top ten Indy bands, but you had better learn how people today chose to use technology to talk, think, and collaborate or you’ll simply be left in a backwater swamp of irrelevance. A worker who isn’t continuing to learn adds little to the company’s efforts and is valued accordingly.
Recognize that having experience doesn’t mean that you are wise. It simply means that you’ve had the opportunity to become wise. One year’s worth of experience repeated twenty-five or thirty time is worthless. Too many older workers sit back cynically and observe change rather than opting to help make it happen. They watch for things to go wrong rather than working to ensure the success of the effort. If you want to stay valuable to your company, make a commitment to life-long learning. That doesn’t have to mean going back to school and taking classes, although it could. More often it involves reading, listening, asking questions, doing internet searches. Everything you need to know is out there somewhere, but you’ve got to go and find it. You cannot rest on your laurels and be safe. You have to act independently and proactively to seek knowledge. Seek feedback from your supervisor, from HR, or from those in the organization whom you feel are going in the right direction. Then follow it. Of course, it means more work when you are already tired, but these are not times to be lazy.
If you want to be a valuable contributor, make sure that you contribute at work. Work should be a “No Coasting Zone.” Teach what you know. Help new employees fit in or learn the culture. Be a model of cooperation and collaboration. Don’t worry as much about who gets the credit as you do about the quality of the overall work. Attack your work with passion. Audition for your job every day. If your job means something to you, act like it does. Leave no doubt as to your commitment to the overall success of the company. Many older workers still feel that it is best to “keep your head down,” or “to stay invisible.” Those are the people who are often left on the fringe of the organization. Make the people around you more successful. Help them out. Lend a hand. Make your boss successful without being self-important. No one wants to lose a vital member of the team.
Embrace diversity. America has grown strong as the result of many people from many lands bringing their talents and their different perspectives to our collective wisdom. Today, more than ever, we go to work in diverse environments. Learn how to constructively use diversity in all of its many aspects. When the focus on diversity became popularized in American business it was often about recognizing that women and African Americans had valuable contributions to make to our shared efforts. Now it is recognizing that people from different cultures, different backgrounds and different capabilities can bring different perspectives to bear on a problem. We have workplaces with four radically different generations working to contribute their ideas and their solutions. Embracing diversity is all about not being distracted by superficialities, but being able to spot the unpolished gem of an idea even though it comes from someone different. Heck, even old white men can have things to offer. If you want to stay valuable, champion the success of all and not just those who are like you.
Leave your emotional baggage at home. Work on improving your emotional IQ. Grow up. Control your emotions, especially your temper. Respect other people. Admit your own mistakes. Don’t be complacent. Practice forgiveness. No one wants to live and work with your episodes of emotional self indulgence. Don’t burden others with your sense of victimhood. Avoid pettiness in your interpersonal relationships. The list could go on and on. It is a shame that this paragraph has to be included at all, but it does. If you want to keep your job:
Be a good corporate citizen
Be a responsible adult
Be a human asset to the team
Be helpful to those around you
When faced with a choice, first be kind
As I said in the beginning, there is no secret formula for any one person to save his or her job. However, by taking the action steps outlined in this article you will improve your individual position and if you still happen to lose your job you will be more attractive when looking for a new one. Really embrace your company’s vision for its future. Learn today’s technologies, e-mail is not a passing fad. Lose your sense of entitlement. Recognize the having experience doesn’t equate with being wise. Contribute at work. Embrace diversity and that means anyone different than you on any particular trait. Leave your emotional baggage at home.