Recent news about the economy and the job market hasn't been encouraging. Companies are taking a much closer look at their operating expenses, especially their payrolls.
Writer Stephen Viscusi asserts that in this atmosphere, "You must understand that your job is your most valuable asset -- and your primary objective is to protect it."
That's just part of the advice Viscusi outlines in his book "Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out on Top at Work." The book discusses tactics for being visible, easy, useful and ready in order to keep one's job.
It's important to be a visible part of the team. "The invisible guy is the first to go," Viscusi observes. "What you need to do is create a perception that makes you more visible, more notable and ultimately more valuable to your company."
Among Viscusi's tips on increasing visibility:
• Arrive early and stay late. Let your boss see your commitment to work, rather than your clockwatching abilities.
• Pay attention to your apparel and your appearance. Make sure your office attire is appropriate. Take note of everything from your hair to your shoes, because everyone else in the office (including your boss) will.
• Develop an eye for the small details.
• Listen up and when appropriate, speak up. Introduce yourself. Prepare your 30-second personal pitch, or "elevator pitch," that explains who you are and what you're all about.
• Introduce yourself with eye contact and a strong handshake - - a personal, warm greeting that Viscusi calls the "Viagra handshake."
Being an "easy" employee doesn't mean you need to be a passive nodding machine who does your manager's bidding. What Viscusi is suggesting is that employees be easy to communicate and interact with.
Workers can take the "easy" way by keeping these ideas in mind:
• Don't gripe, especially if the issue is inconsequential. If there is a serious challenge, communicate without complaining. Stay clear of personal gossip about co-workers and managers.
• Watch what you say and how you say it at work. Neutral language doesn't matter if it's delivered with a sarcastic tone.
• Avoid obvious touchy subjects (race, sex and religion) as well as the not-so-obvious (your salary). If you do talk with co-workers, Viscusi says "Discuss, don't argue."
Every employee is expected to be useful, but as Viscusi notes, "You have to actively look for ways to do more." Exceeding expectations sometimes requires an investment of time and effort, but just as often you can impress the boss with creativity and efficiency.
Viscusi recommends these approaches to be "Mr. or Mrs. Above-and-Beyond" at work:
• Find ways to be a mentor at work. You can reach out to new workers, as well as share your knowledge with executives and CEOs. (They'll remember you for it.)
• Be a "utility player" -- the multifaceted worker who the "coach" (your boss) can pull off the bench and put in the game when another worker is injured (or quits without notice).
• At the same time, cultivate a role as a specialist on the job (or in some of the tasks that you perform).
• Add dollar value to the company by keeping customers happy and minimizing expenses.
Viscusi suggests that being prepared for any outcome instills an air of confidence and calm that looks good on you.
"When you're ready for anything," he says, "you behave with a certainty that you'll succeed when all is well and land on your feet if you hit a bump in the road."
Viscusi suggests that workers can make these preparations:
• Have money in the bank.
• Keep your résumé current and establish a relationship with a recruiter in your field.
• Establish and enhance your network. Be a part of professional organizations and reach out to help the contacts in your professional circles.
• If possible, publish articles or make presentations on your specialized subject matter.
• Be aware of what your peers are doing.
• Avoid getting stuck in a rut. Continue your education, and strive to learn new skills at work.
Though Viscusi warns against indulging in personal gossip, "Company gossip is gold and can help you bulletproof your job." You can set alerts on Web sites like Technorati and Google with your company's name. He also suggests setting an Google alert with your boss's name (though these should be sent to your personal e-mail accounts).And while you're busy building your professional networks online, see if your boss and co-workers have a profile. You can stay on top of what's happening with them, and stay informed if there's any problems or issues happening that might affect you at work