Companies & Industries

Upping Your Value at Work


Instead of living in fear of losing your job, you can build new skills, raise your productivity, and widen your network of social contacts—now

If you're employed right now, chances are that each day you're fighting to keep your job and praying you don't get axed. Working normal hours and meeting job requirements isn't enough anymore. You have to stand out, offer something extra. In these uncertain times, you need to demonstrate your value—or else you become replaceable. It may be difficult to stay motivated—40% of the U.S. workforce isn't, according to CareerBuilder.com. Motivation stems from handling tasks that challenge you, making you passionate about your work activities. Hard work, results, and positive energy come from a motivated worker. Figure out how you can provide value to your boss and the overall organization, and then find ways to make it a habit every single day. The more valuable you become, the more leverage you will have in negotiating a higher salary and the larger your protective shield will be when layoffs occur. Here are some tips to get yourself some job security: 1. Think outside your cubicle. Aside from fulfilling your job requirements, go the extra mile and become a consultant for other groups inside your company. You might not have thought of yourself as a consultant previously, but in today's work environment the focus is on measurable results from projects instead of your job description. Projects give you access to new resources and open up networking opportunities, which can turn you into a more productive worker in the long term and make you an attractive job candidate to other groups in case you're laid off. 2. Gain transferable skills now. You can become invaluable at work if you learn new skills and techniques that apply across multiple business functions. For example, if you understand the business value of social media and how to harness its power across customer support, marketing, and recruitment, you become more important. If you isolate yourself and only gain skills that apply to your specific job, then it will be much harder to bounce back if you lose your job. 3. Build a legion of colleagues on your social networks. Unless your audience on Facebook consists of strictly your friends and family and the content you share is highly personal, you should think about adding co-workers to Facebook and various social networks, like Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and Ning. By connecting with people at work, you can forge a deeper relationship with them that gives you access to their own professional networks with one click. The downside is that every status update you publish can affect how they perceive you. For instance, if you post an achievement, they may get jealous. Or if you're tagged in an unflattering picture (passed out with a lampshade on your head), they might not think very highly of you. A recent report by OfficeTeam stated that only 47% of workers are comfortable with friending their boss and just 48% of managers accept friend requests by workers. Setting parameters up front before accepting co-worker friend requests will save you from aggravation later. 4. Become the ultimate mobile worker. Whether you're in the office or traveling, learning how best to use your mobile phone to get work done is pretty much required these days. If you're an iPhone (AAPL) user, you can avail yourself of several applications to make yourself more productive. First, I would install MobileMe, which automatically pushes new e-mail, contacts, and calendar events to your iPhone, Mac, and PC. Then download Documents so you can edit and manage spreadsheets, and iTalk Recorder Premium so you can record notes and then transfer them to your computer. These applications will allow you to work anywhere (even from the bathroom). There are similar offerings on the BlackBerry (RIMM) and the new Google (GOOG) Android phone. 5. Keep your eyes on the latest trends. The world is constantly changing, and managers applaud workers who can update them on the latest happenings. In fact, even if you aren't constantly researching and learning more about your industry, you can get updates in a flash. Subscribe to blogs and industry news sources through Google Reader, and keep your finger on the pulse of your company's brand by using TweetBeep.com, Google Alerts, and BackType.com. You can also use Upcoming.org and Eventbrite.com to search for networking events in your area. The world isn't waiting for you to catch up. 6. Gain a following outside of work. If you generate awareness for your personal brand outside of work, visibility and positive word of mouth will make its way back into the workplace and you will be highly regarded. A strong external network can also prevent you from spending months job-hunting after a layoff. The Internet lowers the degrees of separation between people to a point where those who you connect with outside of work can spread praise about you to the people in your office. (This can have a negative effect too, of course, depending on how you present yourself online.) Another reason you should invest time in networking outside the workplace: It's rare to get rehired with an employer who just laid you off. So stop looking around at other cubicles and waiting and watching for the next person to get laid off. Take control of your own destiny. Work hard and bring more value to your current position. There are many opportunities now to stand out, become more visible, and even fly into a promotion despite the economy. All you have to do is take initiative.

Dan Schawbel is a personal branding consultant and author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and the publisher of Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine. The New York Times called Schawbel a "personal branding guru." He is also a speaker and managing partner of Millennial Branding, a branding company that serves individuals and corporations. Recently he was named to Inc. magazine's 30 Under 30 list.

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