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Steps to Recession-Proof Your Job

Recession survivors understand that their professional fortunes are tied to those of their employers, so they do whatever is required to help their companies pull through. Consider the following tips to recession-proof your job.

January 22, 2009
from Accountemps

Given the severity of the current economic crisis and rising unemployment, even those currently employed may feel like there's no truly safe harbor. News of major layoffs, corporate restructurings and bankruptcies make "job security" seem like an oxymoron. Rather than get caught up in the speculation about possible doom-and-gloom scenarios, however, the most savvy professionals will resolve to take a fresh, objective look at their professional skills and experience and apply them to weathering the storm.

No one knows how long the recession will last or what the future holds. But if you look at past downturns, it becomes clear that those who made it through before displayed specific behaviors and made deliberate decisions that helped them endure. Recession survivors understand that their professional fortunes are directly tied to those of their employers, so they do whatever is required to help their companies pull through. Consider the following tips to recession-proof your job and enhance your value to your current employer.

Strategy #1: Focus on Your Firm's Bottom Line

In a recession, the finance function becomes even more important as firms seek to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Companies will naturally value employees who find new ways to save money. If there's been a hiring freeze or accounting staff has already been reduced, you could volunteer to take on additional responsibilities that do not fall within your formal job description. Flexibility and adaptability reinforce your professionalism and commitment to the company.

Don't wait for your manager to ask you for suggestions — show that you understand the challenges the firm faces by proactively devising less-expensive ways to get the job done. Consider all of the functions in your department and determine which are most critical to the company's bottom line. These are the areas where you can provide the most value. If yours is a small company that has been outsourcing payroll, for example, offering to take on that type of project will save your firm money and increase your value to the company.

Strategy #2: Work Smarter and Harder

To make yourself more indispensable, display a can-do attitude and the willingness to pitch in by putting in extra hours or being responsive to your colleagues' requests for assistance. If you have special expertise in specific accounting software or new government regulations, be sure to make yourself the go-to resource for your firm. Cultivate a reputation as an employee who excels at his or her own job while enabling others to perform at peak levels as well.

Stay focused on producing consistently high-quality work and meeting deadlines. Try not to get distracted by talk of what may or may not happen, and above all, resist the urge to add your opinions to the rumor mill. Gossiping with co-workers may help you blow off steam and alleviate your anxieties in the short term, but it could cause management to perceive you as a negative influence instead of a team player.

Strategy #3: Shine a Light on Your Accomplishments

Make sure your manager and other senior professionals know the value you bring to the firm. You don't have to brag; simply let your supervisor know what you're doing to help. One of the best ways to do this is to provide a weekly project update that fully explains your contributions. For example, instead of saying you "helped complete the audit by deadline," let your manager know you "identified five key areas where basic expenditures could be reduced by 25 percent to 50 percent."

Enhancing your visibility on a broader scale is essential. At interdepartmental meetings, for example, speak up and make a meaningful contribution to the discussion. Network within your company by getting to know those in other departments. Your success isn't just about what you know but whom you know.

Strategy #4: Update Your Skills

Professionals with outdated skills or inadequate experience are usually among the first to be let go during recessions. In contrast, those with the most current and essential professional and interpersonal skills have a better chance of surviving layoffs because they can fill multiple roles, require little training or supervision and can collaborate effectively with others.

To become more recession-proof, make ongoing training and skill-building a priority. If you aren't already, aim to become proficient in the latest accounting and finance technologies. Stay abreast of evolving regulatory and compliance issues. Refine your written and verbal communication skills and cultivate your ability to work in diverse teams with individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

Strategy #5: Prepare for Your Next Job Search

It may sound strange to suggest that you look for a new job while you're working hard to keep your current one. But as previous recessions and recoveries have shown, people who think long term are the ones most prepared when conditions improve. Start by updating your resume to include the new roles or responsibilities you've assumed, as well as details about your latest professional accomplishments.

Remember to keep in touch with your potential references. By communicating with these professionals consistently, you'll ensure they can talk about your skills and you'll have their up-to-date contact information should you need it.

Although no single action can fully guarantee your job security, you'll increase your chances of weathering a recessionary environment by taking practical steps to raise your value and visibility. Good workers are highly prized, so being a strong contributor to your company could swing the odds in your favor in the event of layoffs. And if you are fortunate enough to remain at your current job through the course of the downturn, you'll be well positioned for a bright future when business picks up again.

For more career advice, listen to Robert Half's podcast series, The Management Minute, at www.rhi.com/podcasts.

Accountemps is one of the world’s first and largest temporary staffing services specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices throughout North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.