How to stand out at the workplace and hold on to your job in a recession

By Stew


Earlier this year, the organization where I work was forced to lay off ten percent of our full time workforce. I survived this particular round of layoffs, but  I knew that I would have to make a conscious effort to make sure that I stay employed. I am not necessarily scared of unemployment, I trust that God will find a way to meet our needs. In fact, there is actually a part of me that looks forward to seeing what might unfold under such a scenario, but this does not mean that I am going to volunteer for unemployment. I plan to be thankful for and content in the job I have. I hope to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me.

No job is safe in an economy like this. There is no fool proof way to guarantee that you will not be down-sized, fired, or any of the other ways that a person can lose a job over the next few years. My job is particularly precarious because I work for a small non-profit company that depends on donations in order to survive. The combination of poor stock market and the tightening of IRS deductions for large gifts is having an effect on charitable organizations like mine.

Here are few strategies that I hope will help keep my name off a pink slip:

Go the extra mile

In January, I had to tell my wife that I might be putting in some extra hours over the coming year, but I saw it as a way to hedge against losing my job. Over the past couple of months, I attended voluntary meetings, accepted a voluntary position on a committee, and even volunteered for two out-of-town trips that my supervisor did not want to make. It is true that the extra time was inconvenient and often involved weekends and evenings, but I would rather work a few extra nights than have every weekday open . . .

Make sure they know your name

My company is just big enough that three months ago, my CEO did not know me from Adam or Mike or Jeff. Under normal conditions, I would not have cared. I liked my job, but I was not really interested in climbing the ladder – especially if it meant “kissing up”. But when a bunch of employees lost their jobs, I decided to take a little more initiative. My goal was simply to make sure that the president and vice presidents and chief financial officers of my company did not just see a financial liability when they looked at my name on a balance sheet. In January, I started to simply show up – attending meetings, receptions and lectures that were optional for people in my department. At the first four different events I introduced myself to the president of our company as if it was for the first time – all four times. On the fifth occasion he remembered my name. He said, “Hey, you’re ______, the guy who ______ mentioned in cabinet last week because you represented us at a couple of meetings out of town . . .”

Mission accomplished.

Distinguish yourself from fellow employees

Don’t be an Eddie Haskell – an annoying, pretentious do-gooder – but rather try to execute assigned tasks so that your supervisor does not have to worry about supervising you. When your boss looks to you, he knows that assigned tasks will be finished completely with no loose ends. Your employer will notice, even if he doesn’t say anything.

Take initiative, but be a team player

There are some employees who take a Machiavellian approach to their jobs. They willingly step on others in order to get ahead. This approach only works in the short run. Don’t make the case for your job at the expense of those around you and remember that sometimes being irreplaceable means cultivating good relationships with your peers. Every team needs  “glue” guy, the person that works well with everyone. Try to be the person who is liked by everyone.

Understand the Mission

Companies do not exist for the sole purpose of providing employment to the masses. If your employer can make the same amount or more money without you on the payroll, then he has no reason to keep you around. Make sure you know exactly how your job affects the profitability of your company and then make your case for employment by doing your job well. Understand the mission of your position and take some time to evaluate whether or not you are meeting that goal. If you are not, you had better start checking the classifieds.

And if the worst happens – make sure you walk out the door with a good recommendation.

From Glblguy: I mentioned last week that another writer was going to be joining me here on Gather Little by Little. Well, you just finished reading the  first article published here on GLBL by that writer: Stew. You’ll be reading lots more from Stew as he’ll be posting a couple times a week going forward and you can get to know him a little more on Thursday. I’m really glad to have him, so join me in welcoming Stew to Gather Little by Little!

Photo by: mark sebastian

16 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How to stand out at the workplace and hold on to your job in a recession”

  1. DDFD at Says:

    Solid advice, but if you are concerned about your job– it is certainly time to think about ways to diversify your income . . .

  2. Nicki at Domestic Cents Says:

    Welcome Stew! Good to have you :)

  3. Baker @ ManVsDebt Says:


    I enjoyed you first post. Although I am self-employed, my wife still does work in an environment that can benefit from this! Welcome to the site… I look forward to your writing over the coming week!

  4. keri Says:

    Great advice – really enjoyed your first article, thank you!

    Question – what do you think is an appropriate way to request a recommendation when you leave (forced or otherwise)? Should you request a letter of recommendation or ask them to be a reference or ???

  5. Stew Says:

    DDFD, why do you think I am starting to write here at GLBL? :)

    Nikki and Baker, thank you for your kind comments.

    Keri, I think your question deserves an entire post. Here are a couple of very quick thoughts: ask for annual letters of recommendation for your files or find someone who likes you.

    Your question has sparked several thoughts in my head about when/how to leave a job. I hope to give a few more suggestions next Tuesday. Thanks!

  6. Keith Says:

    Very good post Stew! You put out some really good advice. I really think it’s important to show initiative and be the person who does NOT say “It’s not my job” and just gets it done! Look forward to reading more stuff from you!

  7. Studenomics Says:

    Welcome Stew! I look forward to reading your posts.

  8. Craig Says:

    Another tip could be to expand your skills, make yourself more marketable. Maybe try to learn the basics of something more technical if you are not a tech guy. That way when layoffs come, you have an extra skillset over the next guy.

  9. keri Says:

    Hi Stew – Great, I’m looking forward to it!

    I’m asking because I’m in the process of leaving my job (not layoffs, it’s just time to move on to bigger and better things) and my boss and his boss (a director) can’t stop saying enough good things about my work and have said, multiple times, if you ever need it, we’ll give you a recommendation. I’ve been kind of stuck on how to followup on this, and additional details on what is appropriate and custom in the workplace would be greatly appreciated.

  10. keri Says:

    And since I’m completely hogging the comments section today I will add one more – I’ve technically worked for the same company for the last 5 years however it’s really been 4 different companies. Over time the company has been sold twice, merged, and then sold again and each time people were laid off. I’ve survived every single time and while it’s been stressful there’s definitely been some keys to my success some of which were mentioned above.

    1) Making yourself available after hours or coming in early to make yourself more visible as a hard worker. My favorite technique is always to show up early, there are a lot of managers wandering the corridors early and when they see your office light on they will usually stop to chat about what you’re working on. This is great visibility and a great time to sell yourself and what you’re working on a little. Also a great time to mention any great new ideas you have.

    2) Have a niche – I think it’s important to both have a niche and to have a large set of skills. The large set will allow you to pickup and learn new things quickly but the niche will keep you there when times get tough. A word of warning – don’t protect your secrets in your niche too much, you have to be willing to share (or at least pretend to share). People hate it when people try to be too secretive.

    3) And finally, make sure to position yourself as the innovator. Constantly think of new ways to improve process or save your company time and money. For my company, sadly, this means coming up with new procedures and documentation and training that we can send to our associates in India and Pakistan where the cost of employees is significantly less. I’m not happy about this, but it has been a key to my success.

  11. Erin Says:

    Welcome, Stew! Anyone who hasn’t seen this coming hasn’t been looking. My husband’s been doing all you suggested, plus the things Keri suggests above, but not just for him. He has 14 people he manages and he’d like to steer them all through this time…he’s made those the characteristics of his department, not just himself. Yes, he has two people who won’t go the extra mile, won’t be available, and won’t try to add value and guess who’s names come up when he contemplates what he’ll do if asked to cut back?

  12. Gina Says:

    Great to have you on the “team” Stew! Good post. And so timely for a lot of us or people we know. You will fit in well with our group. keri did a good job complementing your post w/a few more points! Looking forward to your next post.

  13. Bible Money Matters Says:

    Great first post Stew! Look forward to learning more about you, and reading more posts!

  14. Forest Mueller Says:

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