The overarching principle behind increasing your job security is to INCREASE YOUR VALUE TO YOUR EMPLOYER. It also happens to be the way to advance in your career, whether you're at entry level, mid management, or in the executive suite. The six ways below require some degree of extra effort and time, but in today’s still shaky job market it is well worth making that investment.
You'll notice that several of these points were addressed last month in a piece I wrote about improving your job satisfaction. I'm revisiting some of them here from a slightly different angle.
1) TAKE STOCK OF YOURSELF
In writing. Take your last performance evaluation, and evaluate yourself as of today. Be more critical of yourself than you would normally be. The weaknesses, shortcomings, or areas for improvement that you identify are an excellent roadmap to improving your job performance, and hence your value. Go through this same process of self-criticism no less frequently than monthly. You goal should be to take at least one concrete step towards improving your self-evaluation every month.
2) INCREASE YOUR RELIABILITY
As you take stock in yourself, pay particular attention to reliability. As talented as an employee may be, she is greatly reducing her value to her employer if she is less than 100% reliable. If you perform at an A level, but occasionally turn in a C (for whatever reason), your supervisor can only count on a C performance. There are a number of factors that can contribute to on-the-job unreliability, foremost among them the abuse of substances, whether alcohol or drugs, Even something as apparently “normal” as a hangover can reduce your efficiency and value. Depression, anxiety, and a lengthy list of obligations are other potential impediments to maximizing your value. if any of these factors is present in your life today and you’ve been unsuccessful at minimizing them it would probably be wise to seek professional counseling.
The more knowledgeable an employee is, the greater her value. Learning need not occur in a formal academic setting. Unless you’re a computer whiz, you can probably learn a lot about increasing your computer efficiency by being “tutored” by your teenager or neighbor. Are you reading professional journals or industry periodicals regularly? These can be excellent sources of information and, every once in a while, inspiration. Any professional associations that you might benefit from joining? What about attending expositions or trade shows?
4) CULTIVATE YOUR ON-THE-JOB RELATIONSHIPS
Be the kind of help to your boss that you would like to have from someone working for you. Be a contributor to the superior functioning of your team or department. Always look for win-win solutions, rather than win-lose, which foster resentment and backbiting. A team member who smoothly interacts with others is a lot less trouble, and therefore more valuable, than someone who has prickly relationships with his co-workers.
5) IMPROVE YOUR ATTITUDE
Your attitude toward your work will have a direct impact on your output, and therefore your value. Most employees are being asked by their firms to do more, often for less compensation. This quite naturally can foster bitterness and anger. Try to resist having those feelings envelop you. By remaining vigilant to the tendency to focus on the half empty, rather than the half full, glass, you can start to shift the balance in a direction that will not only foster less anger, but will also bring you greater job satisfaction.
6) GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
Too often people who are dissatisfied, bored, or burned out spend energy looking for the things that justify their state of mind. This process allows people to avoid the unpleasant feelings engendered by holding conflicting thoughts or beliefs at the same time (cognitive dissonance). Try to look in the other direction - towards positive opportunity. If your job has become completely routine, step back and ask yourself what might break the routine, or supplement it. Even a very small extra project that you initiate may bring you appreciation and recognition, which will in turn make you feel better about your overall work situation.