1. Keeping ahead of the lions
A cameraman and his assistant were filming lions on the plains. The alpha male lion got annoyed and started taking a noticeable interest in them. The cameraman filmed on, then noticed that his assistant had pulled off his heavy boots and was lacing on sneakers. “No point” said the cameraman, “If he decides to go for us, you will never out run him.” “I don’t need to outrun him,” replied the assistant, “I only need to outrun you.”
The moral of the story: keep an eye on those around you. It may sound brutal but when the 5% layoff plan comes through, your colleagues are your competitors. Just make sure you are doing more to add value back to the business than most of them are. Make sure you are not running right at the back of the pack.
2. Be heard, be seen
Being seen to contribute is important. People are often modest, and take a dim view of those who blow their own trumpet. But ask yourself, what the odds are of your manager doing the investigation necessary to get a good picture of who really wrote the document, or who was here over the weekend. Tell them!
3. Be valuable
See yourself as the company sees you: as a productive unit. Your salary must be justified by the value you return, as perceived by the employer. If your value does not increase, then your salary will not either. Understand how that value is measured: not in your genius but in results, productivity, versatility, and keeping up with change.
4. Be aligned and know the power groups
Don’t be politically naïve. There are three kinds of people: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those who ask “what happened?” You may choose not to play the corporate politics games, but you owe it to yourself to at least be aware of what is going on.
Understand company directions and strategies. Examine the real financial state of the company. Know the power groups and games being played. Then you can have a better idea of the direction you should be headed in.
5. Learn, grow and manage
You need to grow to retain your value to the business and maintain your personal satisfaction. This growth needs to be sideways into broader skills, not deeper into specific areas. Those who can combine an understanding of the whole system and get the big picture, step into the limelight. The ones who do not, or cannot, escape their own skills will be increasingly marginalized, and replaced by young usurpers.
6. Have an exit plan
Make sure you have a parachute. Where will you work next? Doing what? Make sure your CV looks attractive and your skills are adequate now, before the crunch comes. Being laid off is a traumatic experience. You will cope many times better if you already have a plan and are at least part of the way along the path to being prepared. Better to spend redundancy money on a brief job search and a nice holiday, rather than crammed training and endless door knocking.