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Protecting your job when outsourcing, downsizing, and layoffs loom

‘Take charge’ strategies for surviving the recession

It seems no job is safe in today’s economy. Information technology positions have been hit hard by outsourcing. Downsizing and layoffs have leveled manufacturing jobs. Professional positions, including human resources, market research, customer service, engineering and many others, are also being affected.

“Employees may feel they have no control over the future of their jobs,” says Dr. Robin Berenson, professor and program director for management at American Public University System, an accredited, online university system that serves more than 50,000 working adults. “That’s not true.”

Berenson offers these take-charge strategies that may help protect your job and your career, while benefiting your company.

Job survival strategies

  1.  Understand your company’s business, not just your job

Pay attention to earning statements or other company financial information. Watch where your company is earning new business  and where it might be struggling.

“Cut backs don’t happen overnight,” says Berenson. “Pay attention to warning signs and you can be better prepared for how they might affect your position.”

These indicators can also help you adjust actions within your department. For example, you could suggest cost-cutting measures, such as streamlining processes or delaying certain purchases.

  2.  Be proactive about self-improvement

Companies focus on growth, and so should you. Executives and decision-makers aren’t looking for a robot that performs the same task over and over. They want a team member who can offer new ideas, innovation and better performance. How can you become such a team member?

“Be honest about where your knowledge or professional qualifications are lacking,” says Berenson. “Is it time to earn an advanced degree or pursue certifications?”

Continuing your education may seem overwhelming with work, family and other responsibilities. There are options, such as online learning, that fit the schedule of today’s professionals. APUS, for example, offers 75 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in an affordable and flexible format. Monthly class starts and eight- and 16-week course options can help you fit courses around upcoming work or family commitments.

“Today, being technology-smart, adaptable, and a self-starter are all important ways to set you apart,” says Berenson. “Online programs can help you develop or improve those attributes.”

  3.  Prove your value

Show company leaders and decision-makers that you’re more than just your current title. Find ways to show off the skills you tout on your resume. For example, have you managed projects or events at a previous company? Offer those skills for important company projects, such as a new product roll-out. Fill in gaps through community volunteer work. Take on committee or leadership roles in non-profit organizations that your company supports.

“It’s all part of showing off who you really are, and all that you bring to the company,” says Berenson.

4. Be positive, ethical

See yourself through the eyes of company leaders. Do you contribute to the rumor mill or spread negative attitudes? Worse yet, are you looking for a job rather than doing your job? Demonstrate a positive attitude — and your commitment to the company’s success. It may make a difference if certain departments are facing outsourcing or lay-offs.

Above all, maintain your ethics when it comes to confidential company information. One recent survey from the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute found that 14 percent of 586 U.S. employees admitted they had sent confidential or potentially embarrassing company emails to outsiders.

“Throughout the tough times, protect your reputation as a hard-working, honest employee,” says Berenson. “It will pay off in the long run.”

5. Be prepared

Despite your best efforts, outsourcing, downsizing or layoffs may be unavoidable. You can still prepare yourself, while giving your all to the company. Nurture relationships with colleagues who could serve as references or mentors later. Set aside some of your paycheck, to help ease the time ahead without a steady income. On your own time, research customers and vendors, who may be hiring later. Expand your professional contacts through social networks or professional associations. Even investigate the possibility of working for your company as an independent contractor.

“Facing a job loss can be scary, but it can also serve as a catalyst for improving yourself,” says Berenson. “Figure out where you want to be and what you need to get there, be it an advanced degree, a larger network, or a new career direction.”