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Is your job doomed? How to survive

  • Story Highlights
  • Work relationships and attitudes can get you fired in any economy
  • Complacency, lack of communication and internal conflicts can cause trouble
  • "This is the wrong time to say you're too busy for a new project," expert advises
  • Be prepared: While employed, get copies of your performance reviews
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Not ready for a Donald Trump-like goodbye? Make yourself available in a smart and savvy way.

Not ready for a Donald Trump-like goodbye? Make yourself available in a smart and savvy way.

"You're fired!"

This isn't just Donald Trump's infamous catchphrase on "The Apprentice." Those are the two most feared words in our professional lexicon.

There are, of course, obvious times where people are fired for bad behavior or negligence.

But what about those times when it's something far more subtle that casts a cloud of doom over your job? Factors such as complacency, a lack of communication and internal conflicts can put your role at your company on the extinction list.

Not to mention the external factors that you can't control, such as the state of the economy, the industry and your company. When one or all of these is shaky, you can find yourself unemployed despite hard work and a good reputation.

Whether the result of your own doing or someone else's, getting laid off isn't on anyone's to-do list.

Career path detours

Media and marketing professional Teddy Gorey learned the hard way that advice and feedback aren't always welcomed.

When Los Angeles, California-based Gorey was working for a restaurant owner, he was fired from his job after he pointed out that the venue's chef liked his liquor a bit too much. "There were hangovers, food fights and an attitude that disrupted business."

Unbeknownst to Gorey, the chef was a close friend of the owner.

Executives and managers can be just as vulnerable as other employees. Chris* was a leader in the nonprofit industry and had played an important role in his Illinois-based organization for years.

Chris had met the benchmarks of a successful employee -- he oversaw a period of growth for the organization, solidified its finances and strengthened strategic alliances. Despite all of those accomplishments, he was fired.

In retrospect, he realizes he made a few tactical errors at work. "This job loss turned on two key factors -- my management of a key work relationship, and my management of myself," Chris explains.

Chris says that his conflict with his manager escalated to a point of no return. "Before too long she had the votes to have me removed and pulled the trigger," he recalls.

He also believes that his approach to problem resolution was flawed. Chris says he's proud of his work and what he and his team accomplished, but his focus was occasionally too intense. "I took on a savior mentality," Chris admits. "A lighter touch and a more objective perspective would have served me and the organization much better."

Pink slip prevention

Jodi Glickman Brown, founder of career consulting firm Great on the Job, suggests that workers keep the following ideas in mind when trying to steer their jobs away from a pink slip:

Make yourself available in a smart and savvy way.

"A slowdown is a great time to reach out to managers and peers," Glickman Brown advises. "Volunteer for new projects, but do it in a smart way. Don't say 'I've got nothing to do,' say 'I've got a few things going on, but I'd like to get involved.' Showing that you're thinking ahead will give you an edge."

Take calculated risks

The worst thing you can do is be complacent. Stretch outside of your comfort zone and expand beyond your core competencies.

"Volunteer for projects involving subject matter and skill sets that aren't necessarily in your background," she suggests. "Expand your skills, and make yourself more valuable to your current employer -- and your next one."

Be an instigator

"Do things that add to your group's infrastructure," Glickman Brown suggests. "Offer to write case studies, compile best practices and even start new programs. The goal is to show that you're proactive and have new ideas to bring to the table."

Expand your network -- sensibly

"Most people know that networking is always important -- although it's something that tends to fall by the wayside when people are too busy," she explains. "Now's the ideal time to re-focus on building relationships inside and outside of your group or company."

But be selective about who you connect to, and be realistic in your approach. Don't ask someone you don't know out to lunch. Instead, introduce yourself, explain your commonalities and ask if you may stay in touch via email or phone.

Be present

"This is the wrong time to say you're too busy for a new project, even if you are. Be happy to have it," Glickman Brown advises.

"Don't say you can't work on something, ask for extra time off, look like you've been out too late or disappear for hours on end without letting people know. In slow times, appearances are more important than ever."

Be prepared

If you were ever a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you understand the importance of preparedness. When the cause of a layoff isn't your performance but rather one of those uncontrollable forces, you still need a game plan. Here are some tips:

Performance reviews: While you're still employed, get copies of your performance reviews. Because you weren't let go for productivity reasons, you can use your high marks to illustrate what you've achieved and how you would benefit a new employer.

Prepare reference: Throughout your career, keep track of which supervisors, co-workers and even direct reports would make strong references. Some employers want to hear from various colleagues, not just your boss, so know whom to turn to when it's time to gather references.

Keep your portfolio current: Whether you're still employed or you've been laid off, constantly update your résumé with career achievements. When you learn a new skill set or receive an award, add it so that you don't forget to mention it when you're ready to apply for jobs.

* Chris wanted only his first name used.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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