10 Ways to Avoid Job Layoffs


This story was updated 10/27.

Job losses continue to stack up.

This month they are coming from all kinds of companies: PepsiCo (a reported 3,300) (Stock Quote: PEP), Xerox (3,000) (Stock Quote: XRX) and Chrysler (6,825) (Stock Quote: DAI) to name a few.

“The economy is weak, and it’s likely going to get worst,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement company. “It doesn’t mean you should lie awake at night wondering if you’ll be laid off, but recognize that job security is weakening.”

And the washout is reaching record numbers: In September there were 2,269 layoffs involving more than 50 cuts, or more, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's the most since September 2001.

So how can you potentially avoid being let go at work?

For advice, MainStreet turned to Challenger, and other career experts including Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, and Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career and director of MBA career services at Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in Pittsburgh, as well as Denise Anne Taylor, a professional development consultant from Birmingham, Mich.

Take a look at ten tips that can help (but not guarantee you) secure your employment:

Upgrade Your Skills: The goal is to become cross-functional, says Graham. Updating and expanding your skills is vital to maintaining your job. “If your company offers compensation for furthering your education, take advantage of that,” says Taylor. Attend “lunch-and-learn” sessions, she adds, human resources will take note.

Take Initiative: Bosses don’t like to micromanage their employees (for the most part), so anything an employee does to lessen their workload can benefit. “All too often, employees will wait for an assignment and even say ‘it’s not my job’,” says Taylor. “That attitude will cost you your job.”

Help Others: Offer to mentor another worker. “You don’t get promotions for doing your job,” says Trunk, “You get them when you walk around and help others pick up their slack,” and zone-in on office politics.

Be Flexible: Especially if your company is cutting back or asking people to relocate. “A boss or manager may approach you about switching to another geographic location,” says Graham. “You have to try and figure out if this is optional or your only option.”

Stand Out: But not ostentatiously! “If you’ve helped with something or fix something, send out an email, but not an ‘I’m so great’ email,” says Trunk. “Acknowledge the action and the email will automatically be associated with you.

Document Your Work: Make sure your work is being seen by the right people, says Graham. To do this, keep an up-to-date paper trail. “Documenting your work can also pay off when employee reviews come up,” he adds. Take notes during meetings and throughout the work day, says Taylor. “If a questionable situation arises providing documented facts is an invaluable discrepancy,” she adds.

Dress the Part: The work world is not a democracy. While most companies won’t fire someone for not respecting the dress code, employee should dress correct. “Companies have every right to demand a certain [dress] code” and it’s usually something they’re clear about from the first interview, says Taylor.

Get Away From Gossip:
“Gossiping in the office just shows little respect,” says Taylor. Restraining yourself will improve your image at the office. “Even if people seem interested in that type of communication,” says Taylor. “When they walk away, you’re remembered for all the wrong reasons.”

Make Your Boss Look Good: “Make your boss love you,” says Trunk. “When bosses begin cutting employees, the first ones to go are the least favorites.” Sometimes that might mean giving up some of the credit for a job well done. Allowing kudos to spill over to your manager can benefit you in the long run. “Sometimes you have to take two steps backwards to go ten steps forward,” says Taylor. “But when your boss looks good, you look good.”

Network: “Devoting time to keeping your relationship strong in your industry is like good job insurance,” says Challenger. Remain up-to-date on the status of positions at competitors. Most jobs are not 100% secure, which is why networking before a possible layoff is vital. “When you pass out your business card when [you’re employed], it’s networking,” says Trunk. “But doing it when you need a job is like asking for a favor.” So networking should be an ongoing process. According to Taylor, "the good employees should always be looking."

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