Twelve Steps To Save Your Job

Forty-three million Americans have lost their jobs since 1979. Millions more hang on. Tenuously. Fearfully. Many are in the new and vulnerable "50-50 Club": people over age 50 earning over $50,000 a year. With global competition heating up, massive downsizings by American companies should continue for the rest of the decade.

After 20 years of interviewing newly unemployed and talented managers, Wes Poriotis, CEO of Wesley, Brown & Bartle, a major New York-based executive search firm -- found not a single one who fully knew the art of corporate survival. They've been trained to find jobs, but not how to keep them. When a company decides to downsize, he notes, it not only chooses who must go -- but who shall stay. And he finds that these decisions seldom are based on ability. More often, he says, people stay or leave on subjective evaluation.

Here are Mr. Poriotis's 12 steps toward saving a job, as excerpted from his new book, The Pink Slip and How to Avoid It.

  1. Your first day on the job (or from this day forward), start looking for a new one -- inside or outside your company.

  2. "Join" your company's Board of Directors. Learn to track earnings performance like they to read a spread sheet and profit-and-loss statements, for the earliest indication that a staff cut may be just around the corner.

  3. Watch for unfamiliar "buzz words," on memoranda or bulletin boards. Like calls for the team to be "more entrepreneurial" (meaning "produce, or leave"). Or something about a "business check-up," (meaning cost reductions, i.e. layoffs, are on the way).

  4. Know the signs and signals. If excluded from meetings you've always attended... or can't see your boss as often as before. If you're tagged as being "in the box"... or are sent on "special assignment" during reorganization -- you're vulnerable.

  5. Beware of the consultant. Management often turns to outsiders for an "objective" look at how best to boost productivity... and opinions on staff performance. Consultants often "reward" short-shrift treatment by the unwary with a critique that spells termination.

  6. Make yourself more personally attractive. Pay special heed to the whims and concerns of those who evaluate you, their opinions on dress, behavior, work habits. Wherever you differ -- adjust accordingly.

  7. Adjust your personal "time clock." If the boss is "AM," so should you be. If he's "PM," stay until dark -- especially when things get shaky.

  8. Cross-train to improve your value and develop additional skills. Like learning Chinese, or what the competition is up to.

  9. Become a "tither." Devote no less than 10 percent of your time to self-promotion. Use outside sources to influence your value to internal higher management.

  10. Paranoia isn't all bad. Maintain a private diary... memos to your file, to record events which later may be challenged.

  11. If all else is failing, think about "firing your boss." (Actually, causing his departure.) It takes a lot of internal politics and preparation (funny expense accounts?... more than friendly with an associate?) It may not work. But at that stage, if you have the goods and know how to impart them, there may be nothing else to lose.

  12. Don't be complacent. Put these survival tactics into play, now. Before it's too late to get started.

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