In a time of cutbacks, layoffs and hiring freezes, obtaining a good position seems especially crucial — but simply having the job isn’t enough, and fulfilling one’s tasks and responsibilities has become the bare minimum that’s required to keep it.
It’s time to generate some buzz and sell yourself with the same kind of enthusiasm and drive that it took to get the job offer in the first place, experts note. Otherwise, you could be doomed to the kind of corporate invisibility that makes you an ideal candidate for the next job-cutting round. Here are some tips for standing out:
Demonstrating versatility in several roles is a boon to becoming bulletproof, says Peggy Klaus, executive coach and author of "The Truth About Soft Skills." Even if someone isn’t the best and brightest on the team, it’s more likely he or she will be kept around if there’s evidence of being the go-to person for several departments. And being indispensable also extends to customers, Klaus adds. Buddy up with the people the company serves, and higher-ups will think twice before lowering the ax, because they’ll have to explain to customers why they let you go.
Maybe you’re stellar at professional tasks, but tend to skip informal gatherings and chit-chat. If that’s the case, you could be missing an opportunity, Klaus notes. "How you’re viewed by your peers or direct reports becomes increasingly important during downturns. At layoff time, the tolerance level rapidly decreases toward people who are good at doing their job, but [are] perceived as jerks or bullies," she says.
Remember the Basics.
High-level strategy and networking are important, but so is answering this question: What time did you get to work today? Consultant Mary Crane notes that it’s still vital to go in on time, if not early, and also to stay late. "Now is the time to show up for work eager and excited to be there," she says. "Work at finishing your projects quickly and superlatively. Then, see if you can be of assistance to anyone else in your department."
Buddy Up with Senior Management.
One key to staying visible is to let senior management know who you are, and that extends to your interest in the company’s operations, rather than just your name or job duties. "Ask good questions related to business objectives, strategy and key challenges," advises Gayle Lantz, consultant and founder of WorkMatters. "Having conversations with senior management is important [so you can] understand the most critical business issues and position yourself as someone who can contribute unique value."
Watch Your Language.
"Don’t ask questions; make statements," says Richard Laermer, author of "2011: Trendspotting." He believes that people gravitate toward those who appear resolute, and the speaker doesn’t need to be obnoxious to make firm statements. "Just say what you mean and see how it lands," he adds. "That’s a respectable quality in a shrinking workplace environment." Also crucial is being responsible with language in written communication. Sure, an e-mail that’s sent to a colleague down the hall might be just a quick note, but that’s no reason to make it sound overly casual and weighted down with exclamation marks. Sound articulate and professional, and people will think you are.
Master the Art of the Update.
Forget about tracking your progress so you can chat about it at the next performance review. Instead, keep your boss updated with a weekly e-mail that lists key points about your work of week before, advises Kent Porter, founder and president of Porter Leadership Development. On the same day every week, send an e-mail that covers areas such as how you made money for the company or saved it money, new processes or systems you’ve improved, core issues you’ve address, and how the boss can help you going forward. The e-mail doesn’t have to be about self-aggrandizement, but rather, it should be a good overview of how you’re accomplishing tasks. Porter says, "There is a direct correlation [between] keeping the boss informed and your salary increases, promotions and job security."
Make Room for Plaques.
Even if your track-meet trophies and drama-club competitions were won decades ago, awards can still be valuable for today?s workplace. There are dozens of opportunities in every industry, notes Linda Hamburger, president of On Call PR. "Everyone loves a winner," she says. "Your community business journal probably has award [competitions] you can enter. So do the hundreds of industry trade press [organizations]." If you’re chosen as a winner in one of them, be sure to let your company’s media relations person know so he or she can write a press release and include the award in the next company newsletter.
If your company has a mentorship program, sign up. It will give you exposure to senior management levels, and give you more visibility by being seen with an executive who’s well-regarded at the company, notes Simma Lieberman, consultant and author of "Putting Diversity to Work." A mentor can help direct career objectives and also become a champion to a prot?g?, she adds: "Not only will you learn valuable skills and information from your mentor, but other people will see you together and begin to associate you with [him or her] in their minds."