How To Keep Your Job

What does 2009 have in store for workers -- and how can you position yourself to do well in this tough environment?

"Nobody seems to think the turnaround is imminent," says John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. The job market usually takes longer to deteriorate than the rest of the economy, and it can also take longer for it to improve once the economy starts gaining strength. "It seems inevitable that we're going to be mired in this for a while."

No one knows how long this recession will last. The financial services, construction, and automotive industries were hit early in the crisis and are still struggling. But other areas of the economy, including retail and the tech sectors, are also facing challenges.

Realistic, Not Resigned

State and local governments are "under tremendous budget pressures," Challenger said. The federal government, on the other hand, may end up boosting spending in an effort to stabilize the economy.

It's helpful, if you're job-hunting, to understand the outlook and the pressures individual industries face. But don't let the bad news keep you from looking.

"There are jobs in every industry," says Mary Jeanne Vincent, a career coach in Monterey, California. "It's really about knowing what you have to contribute and making sure you go the extra mile."

Job-Saving Hints

The first tip experts give for making it through this recession is to stay employed, provided you have a job and are not miserable. Even the best workers do sometimes lose their jobs. But there are ways you can make this less likely:

* Make sure your boss knows how you help the company. "If your manager doesn't understand how much you contribute, he or she cannot defend you when asked to make cost-cutting decisions," Vincent says.

* Make yourself useful. Tell your boss that you understand he or she is overloaded, and offer to help. "Make your boss look good and feel supported," Vincent says.

* Focus on core work. If your work is peripheral to the company's main goals, you're a likely layoff candidate no matter how good a job you're doing. "Try to become the expert on things that nobody else can do," Challenger said.

* Get to know your boss's boss. If your boss quits, is promoted or is laid off, your new boss won't know how essential you are. "Your boss is just as vulnerable as you are" to a layoff, Challenger says.

Landing a New Job

If you do need to look for a job during the recession -- your company is going out of business, for example -- don't despair. It is possible, with patience and hard work. Here are some expert tips:

* Cast a wide net. "You need to look online, you need to get out there and press the flesh, you need to meet people for informational interviews," Vincent says.

* Be able to explain how you would help a company. Employers who are hiring will have their pick of candidates, so you need to be able to explain clearly what you would bring to the company. "You have to do a better job of selling," Vincent says.

* Don't wait. It's tempting to take the holiday season off. But Challenger advises against it. Keep your search going until you find the job you want.

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