Get praise instead of a pink slip

With unemployment rising, the best job advice may be how to keep the one you have

RISE TO THE TASK<br>According to Marisa Smiley, a human resources coordinator, the easiest way to keep your job is to be indispensable. “I believe in proactivity,” she says.

According to Marisa Smiley, a human resources coordinator, the easiest way to keep your job is to be indispensable. “I believe in proactivity,” she says.


Marisa Smiley sees the job market from both sides. As a human resources coordinator for the employment-services firm Staff Resources, she helps companies hire workers. She, of course, is an employee, and she recently took stock of what she’s offeringand can offerStaff Resources.

Smiley asked herself, “What can I do for my clients in these turbulent times?” That prompted a round of phone calls to the businesses she supports, just checking in.

“When you are an employee,” she said, “it’s your responsibility to look outside the box. ‘What can I do without being told?’ Be a high-output performer and a low-maintenance employee.”

That’s a shrewd approach in the best of times, and particularly now that employers everywhere have slashed their workforces. As unemployment rates rise, it’s hard not to think you could be next.

What can you do to safeguard your situation? Smiley offers this mantra: “Live inside your means at home and outside your job description at work.”

That doesn’t mean be a brownnoser, she said, and “don’t think, ‘I’m going to lose my job,’ and then perform”—too little, too late. “You need to demonstrate your performance before the crisis hits. I believe in proactivity.”

She also believes in flexibility and accessibility. Be available for extra shifts or tasks. Offer to get cross-trained so you can fill in for other people. The more versatile you are, the less dispensable you are … provided the right people know.

“It doesn’t help that the receptionist knows what you’re doing if your boss doesn’t,” Smiley said. “How can they make a [good] business decision about you if they don’t know you’ve made a proactive stance to help the company?”

There is plenty of advice on the Internet. Tips that resonate the most with Smiley, she found on They include:

• Stick around.

• Be a good sport.

• Act the way you did when you were gunning for a promotion.

• Think about the company the same way your boss would think about it.

• Identify ways to decrease costs and increase revenue.

• Network, network, network—make a special effort to reconnect with people.

The last one also covers your bases should you see the writing on the wall.

“Be all you can be for your employer, but be prepared for yourself,” Smiley said. “If key people start leaving, you should ask yourself why that’s happening. Get proactive information from the leadership of your organization. People have a tendency to panic in financial duress; keep a level head and make wise choices.

“These are tough times,” she added. “You have to bend and be flexible to make things into a win-win situation. That shows a lot about your values and your value as an employee.”