Do You Have What It Takes to Dodge Layoffs?

Five Questions for Organization Consultant and 'Survive Downsizing' Author Donald Minnick

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Industry layoffs are rampant; colleagues are dropping like flies. Still, some stand the test of time and circumstance, surviving rounds and rounds of cuts. Who are these people, and what skills and qualities are keeping them in the mix?

Donald Minnick, a clinical psychologist, organization consultant and adjunct professor in organization development -- at Texas State University, the School of Executive Education at Rice University and the University of Houston -- set out to answer that question in his new book, "Survive Downsizing: How to Keep Your Job and Become Indispensable to Your Company." He draws upon data collected from a survey of hiring managers and downsizing survivors conducted over the last 10 years.

He recently chatted with Ad Age about the findings and shared his advice for white-knuckled employees struggling to hold onto their jobs in this recession.

Ad Age: What's the biggest mistake people are making right now when it comes to their jobs?

Dr. Minnick: Particularly in industries where there is threat from the economy, people tend to hunker down and rely on their technical abilities. One of the things that this survey shows is that that's the last thing you want to do. You really want to be out there where people can recognize your competence, where people know you.

Ad Age: What is the single best thing employees could do to benefit themselves?

Dr. Minnick: What matters is being at the center of knowledge networks so you can move easily across functions within the organization. Communication skills are also critical -- obviously, being able to talk clearly about what you can do and make your and your group's accomplishments well-known in the organization.

Ad Age: In the book you talk about positioning yourself as the go-to person within your company. If there's already that go-to person in place, how do you become that one?

Dr. Minnick: You can really become the leader within your organization no matter what your job title or level of position within your organization is. The go-to people aren't necessarily the ones with the big [titles]. They're the ones you can go to, the ones you can count on. Being able to count on someone to do the job is very important. The fact of the matter is, we know that we have the capacity to make the work of the people around us either easier or more difficult. And those two instincts -- personal initiative and capacity for collaboration -- the decisions you make around those two things make work for those around you easier.

Ad Age: What are your thoughts on making yourself visible in a broader outside context?

Dr. Minnick: [One important skill] is the ability to cross boundaries within your organization. But [it's also important to reach] outside your organization to customers and even competitors. One of the outlets that people have to do that are communities of practice, organizations of folks who have shared interests, for example, software developers that get together and swap stories about products and solutions. Communities of practice certainly develop face-to-face, but there's a much bigger push to do that sort of thing online now through social media.

Ad Age: For someone who's laid off, what's the single best tool for finding work?

Dr. Minnick: A lot of the people we surveyed were hiring managers, and so if you're out of a job, one of the things that's really important for you to do is to speak to the things those hiring managers are looking for. So, as opposed to just having an obituary resume, you restructure it, think about how to articulate these survival instincts, these survival skills.


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