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Keep track of your value to the company
By ANITA BRUZZESE Gannett News Service

By now, everyone realizes that no job is absolutely, positively secure. Even if your company appears to be robust, that can quickly change. And when times get rocky, layoffs may be right around the corner.

So, is there any way to protect your job when the pink slips are handed out? While there's no surefire way to make sure you never face a layoff, there is a strategy that will not only ease your vulnerability when times get tough, but help your career plans overall.

Some strategies to use:

  • Keeping a diary. This should be a record of what you accomplish each day at work. A good way to do this is with a daily planner that has enough space to jot down what tasks you performed, when you pitched in to help someone else or if you took on a project. You can write down the deadline given, and if the deadline was met. You should record other participants on the project so it's evident that you worked with a variety of people on various tasks.

This record of your work should not include any personal observations, such as, "Joe was a jerk when I asked him for help." It should read: "Requested help from Joe; said he was busy. Solved the problem by asking Bob for help. He agreed."

Don't put anything in the diary you wouldn't want five other people to see -- this is a professional view of your work, not a personal venting of frustrations or criticisms. Save that for the journal at home.

What you're trying to do is give an accurate account of what you do daily, weekly and monthly. This diary helps you establish your contributions to the employer, especially when a pattern of dependable, quality work is evident.

  • Making the performance evaluation your friend. Many employees dislike performance evaluations because they believe it's just a chance for the boss to criticize them. But a performance evaluation can also serve as a chance for employees to tout their successes, showing their value to a company and how they met or exceeded goals. That's why the workplace diary is important: It gives an employee the written account of what has been done, instead of trying to recall from memory the events of the past year.

Also, during the performance evaluation, you should provide written proof of your accomplishments. If you've received an award, a compliment via e-mail from the boss or a note from a co-worker expressing gratitude for your aid, then be ready to show those off.

During the performance evaluation, you should not only talk about how your past actions have tied in with company goals, but express a desire to be given a "road map" of what the boss would like from you in the future. Not only does this show your willingness to continue working hard, but it gives you clear goals to shoot for in the next year.

  • Keeping your game sharp. It's easy to become complacent at work -- just get the job done the same way you always have and collect that paycheck. But today's worker has to not only aim at keeping the employer happy with his or her skills, but also continually look to keep up with others in the marketplace. If you happen to be out of a job one day, you may be faced with tough competition that has more training or education in your field.

Many bosses are willing to let you cross-train in other departments, or will pay for workers to attend seminars or workshops to improve skills. Ask about tuition assistance for college courses. Some of the most valuable skills for any worker revolve around presenting a good image to others. Consider taking public speaking classes, etiquette workshops, or ask for a personal makeover at a department store.

Finally, following the rules of childhood can always make you a valuable employee: be nice, share, say "please" and "thank you," stop whining, work hard, and treat others as you wish to be treated.

Anita Bruzzese is author of “Take This Job and Thrive,” (Impact Publications). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va., 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.