With all the talk about the uncertain economy lately, many professionals are reassessing their careers. People are evaluating their job responsibilities and contributions, making sure they’re in a strong position should their employers face a downturn.
Regardless of the business climate, it’s a wise move to consider your value to your company, at least periodically. Good workers always are coveted, so making sure you’re a strong contributor to the firm can give you an advantage, putting you in a position for advancement and swinging the odds in your favor should layoffs be on the horizon.
While it’s impossible to make yourself completely recession proof, here are some ways to enhance your marketability:
Focus on the Bottom Line
Think of ways to save your employer money. For instance, instead of recommending new laptops for an entire department, consider whether upgrades to current systems would be sufficient. Or you might propose using products that are less expensive but just as reliable as more costly models. If your ideas help the company achieve cost savings, particularly during challenging business conditions, you’re more likely to be seen as indispensable. No firm wants to lose employees who help maximize the bottom line.
Increase Your Visibility
Also make sure key decision makers know who you are and the value you bring to the company. This doesn’t mean you should brag or clamor for attention; instead, take steps to make others aware of your expertise and accomplishments.
Arrive at meetings armed with knowledge of the topic at hand and ready to contribute. Becoming an active participant in group discussions will help highlight your communication skills and strategic vision. When providing project updates, give credit to employees who helped you with your assignments. They’ll likely do the same for you.
When you’re praised for your work, don’t downplay your achievements with comments such as, “Oh, it was nothing.” Take credit for your efforts and say “thank you” instead. Also make sure any project updates you give your manager are worded effectively.
For instance, if you only note that you “helped employees with technical problems,” your supervisor may not realize you stayed late to resolve a complex technical issue, allowing people in a particular business group to meet a critical deadline.
Additionally, take the time to network within the company. Remember that professional success isn’t just about what you know; it’s also important who you know. Do leaders in the firm know who you are and what you do? Events such as the holiday party or annual picnic are great ways to meet others in the organization.
Be the ‘Go-to’ Person
It’s also wise to build a reputation as a true expert in your job. Get involved in professional organizations, take classes, read IT publications and keep your certifications current to ensure your knowledge is up-to-date. Consider focusing on a specialty area of IT so you become the sole person on staff with a particular skill set.
Firms also want employees who step up to the plate, solving problems and assisting others before they are asked to do so. For instance, you might notice that a colleague is behind with installing software upgrades, which is starting to affect the progress of other projects. Volunteer to complete some of the installs. Making the extra effort will show you understand the importance of being a team player and reinforce your contributions to the group.
Don’t limit yourself to your job description, either. Be willing to take on assignments that fall outside of your usual scope of activity or that stretch your abilities. Flexibility — including a willingness to adapt to changes — reinforces your professionalism and commitment to the company.
No one can predict what’s ahead. But if you are giving your all to your job consistently, not just during questionable economic times, you’ll find that you’re more confident about your prospects during the peaks and valleys of business cycles.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.