There is an expression that is often used in sales: “You are only as good as your last deal.” What is meant by that is that management has a short-term memory and no matter how good you were in the past, they are focusing on what you can do for them right now. It may seem unfair to those who have worked very hard throughout the years to find out that their jobs may be on the line due to one poor month of performance. However, this is a reality in this market.
The new movie, Larry Crowne, with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, is about Hanks’ character, a top performing employee who has won the employee of the month something like 8 times. He is self-confident that management has requested his presence in their office to tell him that he has just won for the 9th time. Instead, he finds out that they are letting him go due to his lack of a college education.
This is a pretty common situation that happens in today’s workplace. Employees are becoming concerned about keeping their positions. There are a lot of people with strong work histories out there that are in the market for a job…your job. There are some important tips to keep in mind when trying to avoid being expendable at work. These include:
- Work harder than your coworkers. That may seem to be common sense, but it is surprising how many people overlook the fact that they may not be number one in the office. There is an old expression: I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you. Think of being laid off as the bear and you have to be better than your coworkers to survive.
- Multitask. One way to be more efficient at your job is to multitask. Some may argue that there is no such thing as true multitasking but there is such a thing as combining small jobs together so that you get more done in less time. I often share an example with my students of how I would type my call notes while “dialing for dollars” so that I could make twice as many phone calls as my coworkers who waited until the call was completed to type up their notes. Find ways to combine things like this to be more efficient.
- Add value through education. The Tom Hanks example is a good reason why you should consider furthering your education to compete. You might find that a certification is enough. You might find that an MBA would add value. Find the thing that makes you stand out from your fellow coworkers.
- Put in the time. If you are the last one to get to work and the first one to leave, you may find that management has noticed. Look around your office and pay attention to who gets there late, who lollygags around and doesn’t work hard. Put in the hours but also be sure that management sees how hard you are working. There is no shame in copying them on things that show you have done well.
- Work smarter vs. harder. Some people think that just putting in more work hours means they are working hard. If you are the guy/gal who plans the plan to plan the plan, then you are not efficient. A plan is important to keep you on track. Just be sure you don’t spend all of your time planning and none of your time doing.
If you do these 5 things, you’ll be well on your way to outrunning your coworkers and avoiding the bear (loss of employment).