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Build visibility to help avoid a layoff

Coach's Corner--June 15, 2009

The Client
Name: Bill
Age: 30
Title: Senior market analyst
Industry: Financial services
Issue: Keeping your job
Q. I like the company I work for and am happy to still have my job, but I suspect that more layoffs are coming. How can I cut the chances that I’ll be on that list?

A. Take ownership of your career and let your higher-ups know your value.

The inner game
First, focus on the assets you bring to the company. Many of us are too humble about what we’re good at, so in the privacy of your own mind, list your abilities and accomplishments. Consider how your advocates would describe your strengths. Likewise, notice and address shortcomings that may be holding you back.

Next, consider what you enjoy doing. Identify the tasks and responsibilities that fit you best, and analyze why you like them. Here’s an example. If you relish leading strategy teams aimed at landing new accounts, get specific about what, in particular, you like. Is it being in charge, working with groups, brainstorming ideas, or implementing the plan? Drill down until you understand the aspects that get you really jazzed about doing your job.

Now look around the company, looking for roles that would fit for you. Also, look for gaps. Every company has problems, and you may have the right skills to offer a solution. If this is your vision, develop a concept to pitch. Even if it isn’t acted on, your initiative will get attention — in a positive way.

As you get ready to build your visibility, watch for barriers that could interfere. These may be internal, such as nervousness, or external, such as a rigid hierarchy that limits your access to people. Take the time to plan how you’ll deal with these barriers.

The outer game
Having a compelling story about the contributions you could make is only half the battle; next you’ll need to get in front of the right people and let them know.

Start by selecting the right people to approach. In a smaller firm, you may want to go right to the top, talking with the owner. In a large company, you may want to target the next level of division executives, choosing those who are flexible in managing change and solving problems. Be aware of company performance, and be careful about areas that may be more vulnerable in the near term.

Plan the conversation, but don’t script it. Know the messages you want to send and what you’d like to learn. Focus more on listening than on talking so that you can understand the company’s vision for the future and ways you can contribute. Match your tone to the company culture and individual’s style. If they are very direct and value initiative, you can be bolder than if it’s a more reticent culture.

Then ask! Request time on their schedules; don’t wait for them to come to you. After you talk, follow up with some written thoughts or a link to an article that is relevant to an idea they mentioned.

The last word
Under any circumstances, it’s a good idea to take an active role in your career advancement. Now more than ever, it can make the difference in keeping you out of the job market.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted June 15, 2009
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