What Can I Do to Make Sure I Don't Get Laid Off?

Ask Brad: You've Got to Make Yourself Invaluable to Your Employer

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We read the headlines, we see the news, we hear about our friends. Times are tough, and the advertising and marketing business isn't going to be spared. In the past, I had the unfortunate privilege of being in the room as we went through a pretty major layoff. So here are some insider tips on what you can do to improve your chances of keeping your job.

1. Be "The One"
You want to carve your niche and be the "go-to" person for something important at your company. Be the one upon whom everyone relies. In other words, you want to be "the new-business guru," or "the client-relationship all-star" or even "the I-know-everything-about-our-brand's-media expert."

Find something that's important to your company and latch onto it. If it comes to layoffs, you want them to say, "We can't fire Willie; he's the new-business guy." Or, "We can't fire Audrey; she has the best relationship with our key client." It's even better if you become the authority in an area that makes the company a lot of money.

2. Do the work of two or three people
Here's what happens during layoffs. Departments of 20 become departments of six, but none of the work goes away. When management is deciding who will make the cut, they look for people who can carry the load. Start volunteering now to do the extra assignment, to take on more work, or to help out with the new project. Now is not the time to complain about all the work you have or to schedule that three-week vacation.

Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound and JB Training Solutions. He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.
New business is a great place to volunteer. It's high-profile, and it may lead to your becoming "The One" on a new piece of business.

3. Network
Usually, we think of networking as a way to get a job, but in times like these, you have to network inside your company. A common misconception is that your boss decides if you stay or go during a layoff. The fact is, it's often a team of pretty senior managers making the call (for all you know, your boss is getting fired). When we went through our big layoff, it was senior VPs and above who made the call.

If that senior VP or president doesn't know who you are or if they have never seen you, it's much easier for them to pull the trigger. The conversation goes something like this:

Anyone know Darren from Account Management?

No.

Anyone know his work?

No.

Anyone want to fight for him?

No.

Add him to the list.

It's sad, but true.

You have to do what you can to make sure senior management knows who you are. That might mean coming in very early so your senior VP sees you working at 7:30 a.m. when he gets in. Maybe you work up the courage to small talk with the COO at the next company town-hall meeting. Or perhaps you volunteer to work on the pro-bono project led by your department head. It's not about kissing up. It's about making sure they know you.

4. Put on a happy face
Sometimes, it's almost worse to be one of the folks who doesn't get let go after a big layoff. Morale is down, people are hurting, and the work still needs to get done. If you happen to be Debbie Downer before the layoffs, or if you love to spread gossip and rumors, that could mean your demise. Companies are looking for people who can pick up the pieces and keep charging ahead after a big downsizing. I know it's not fun right now at the office, but keep your chin up and don't complain. Sitting around all day spreading rumors about a layoff and telling everyone how bad you have it isn't going to help your case.

Of course, there are no foolproof ways to keep that job, but you certainly want to improve your chances.

Good luck.

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