With unemployment at all-time high, salary cuts becoming commonplace and seemingly no end to layoffs in sight, IT jobs are just as vulnerable as other positions in this recession. Here is some advice from John A. Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., on how to make yourself indispensable and increase the chances of keeping your IT job.
- Get and maintain a firm grasp of the company's business, industry, consumers and vendors. You need to know where the company is going and where it has been. ("Maybe a proposal you're suggesting has already been attempted.") You need to read the periodicals that pertain to your profession and the stuff the company leadership reads: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review.
- Become the go-to person on the technical aspects of your IT job, but be flexible enough to solve any problem you might be thrown.
- Before you open your mouth about a proposal, make sure you understand the company culture. How quickly does your company adapt to change? Does it work by committee, or are decisions made less formally? Does it maintain high or low transparency?
"If you are unable to convey in language that resonates with them, your value is diminished. From your first conversation with your direct supervisor and every level you move your proposal up the ladder, it is important that you phrase the problem and the solution in language they can relate to," Challenger said.
- Value proposition is key to getting management's attention, so you need a clear statement of tangible results that corporate can expect to see from implementing your proposal. "You want to avoid vague generalities like, 'This will save us a lot of money,'" he said.
- As you put the projects in place, let people know about them. "One of the keys in an environment like this is boasting in a way that isn't claiming you can do things for your company, but telling people about what you have done. Make sure you talk about concrete results, and not just to your boss but to people around the company." This is hard because "most of us have been taught not to toot our horn, but in this environment, you are fighting for your job even in your own company, and need to make sure people know what you've done."
- Be known as someone who can get things done. Bosses want to know that if they turn things over to you, they don't have to watch you closely because you are going to do it just like they would.
- But don't do this by any means possible. Driving your staff to the ground to get something done causes low morale and turnover, which causes more problems for the company.
- Identify the areas where you are really the only person in the company who can answer the specific and technical questions regarding some aspect of your field, so that your absence would leave a big gap.
- Join committees that are developing key projects.
- Try to work on recession-proof projects that are so critical to the business that they have to continue, regardless of how bad things get.
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