The best ways to bulletproof your job

7 ways to keep your name off the layoff list when the ax falls.

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By Donna Rosato, Money Magazine senior writer


(Money Magazine) -- As surely as baseball heralds the spring, poor economic reports presage layoff season. According to Mercer Consulting, one in three midsize to large U.S. companies is pondering job freezes or downsizing. Besides the obvious no-no's - completing projects late, griping noisily about the boss - here are seven strategies for deflecting a pink slip.

Add revenue

A company's first layoffs are usually aimed at jobs that cost money (like public relations) rather than jobs that bring in money (like star salespeople). If you're in the first category, start thinking like someone in the second: Brainstorm ways to create new revenue streams and send them up the ladder. Even if they don't get adopted, your boss will think of you as part of the solution, not the problem.

Practice conspicuous parsimony

Suggest cost-cutting moves like switching to a less expensive vendor or bringing something in-house that you currently pay consultants to do, suggests Dale Winston, CEO of recruiter Battalia Winston. Your boss will begin to associate you with saving money - an excellent thing right around now.

Display your mug

And not the one that reads "I'd Rather Be Surfing." Even if you have negotiated a flexible schedule or you frequently telecommute, start showing your face in the office more often. It's harder for most bosses to lay off people they see every day than those who come in only now and then, says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

Grab horn, toot same

More effective than burying yourself in work is making sure your boss knows exactly what you're doing and how well you're doing it, says Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire. To avoid coming off like Steve Carrell in The Office, subtlety is key. In meetings, praise your team for finishing a project early. Forward your manager the kudos an important client e-mailed you.

Look beyond your boss

If she's about to get laid off and her higher-ups have no idea what you do, you'll be vulnerable too. Attend company events and introduce yourself to upper-level execs - and CC them on those laudatory e-mails you're forwarding.

Rethink that raise

Highly compensated people are often at most risk: It's easier to cut a few big earners than dozens of worker bees. If you're well paid for your level, at raise time consider asking to take your annual increase as a lump-sum bonus, suggests Paul Rowson, general manager at WorldatWork, an association of HR professionals. A bonus makes the bottom line look better and won't raise the company's outlay for benefits tied to your base salary.

Kick your mentoring up a notch

You need to be seen as versatile enough to contribute in a variety of ways. So offer to host an in-house brown-bag lunch or conduct a workshop for colleagues. "If you can teach people how to fish rather than just catch big fish yourself," says Rowson, "you will be more valuable." Plus, you'll cement relationships that will come in handy if the ax does fall. To top of page

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