August 16, 2012

Are you so essential to your company that, if there were a downsizing, your name would not come into the crosshairs?

If your answer is anything besides a categorical yes, you might want to consider what makes certain employees and managers “recession proof,” and do some personal recession proofing.

Here are some ideas:

Put the most emphasis where the decision making resides. Ask yourself:

smiling employees
  • Who has input into whether to keep me on in my position?
  • What have I done for those decision makers lately?
  • How do I make the decision makers look good – or make their jobs easier or less stressful?
  • How can I make sure they know I’m doing those things?

This exercise doesn’t have to be as crass as it might sound. It just reflects the reality that, unless you’re the CEO, you work for someone else, and you’re expected to act in the service of that person’s objectives.

Increase your inherent worth. The term “human resources” reflects the assumption that people are a resource at least as much as materials, facilities and capital are. There are many ways you can make yourself a more valuable resource to your company.

Start with an assessment of what skills, knowledge and abilities the company needs more of or – better yet – will need more of in the near future. Then embark on some strategic personal development.

This can mean participating in additional training, qualifying for a new certification, asking for interviews with employees who have knowledge you need, or reading up on the latest literature in your field.

Be a “standout.” Many kinds of standouts are valued in an organization:

  • Positive, upbeat, happy people who don’t complain or engage in gossip
  • Hard workers who quietly do whatever it takes to get a job done and shine brightest when the challenges are the toughest
  • People who say yes more than no – “Yes, I can help” or “Yes, I’d be happy to work on that project.”
  • People who are team players and give credit to others for successes

In short, be the kind of employee you like to work with and would recommend for promotion.

Cultivate your internal and external networks. Your internal network is the matrix in which all the above points play out – where decision makers see you, your increased value is put to use, and you shine as a standout. Nurture that network by keeping in touch with people.

Walk over and talk in person sometimes instead of communicating by phone or email. Show up for meetings and other events that people look for excuses to duck out of. Invite key people out for lunch, or bring in a treat for the whole group to take a break and enjoy together.

Your external network is important if you find yourself back in the job market – let’s hope because you choose to look for something better. In any case, the more people you know in your field, the better your chances of landing a new job.

Your external network can consist of former colleagues, current and former customers and vendors, people you meet at conferences, and friends and relatives in the field. But you have to cultivate that network to keep it viable.

Stay in touch. Get together for lunches, send people interesting articles you find, join social media sites like LinkedIn, and connect with them.

Who gets selected for separation in a downsizing is no accident. And who is considered indispensable is usually no accident. You should have a plan for making yourself one of the “indispensables.”

This article was originally posted on August 16, 2012 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at