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How to Hang Onto Your Job

The problem is that any increase in pay will mark you as the top earning department head in the company. And what was once a badge of pride is now a bull’s-eye. To keep that target off your back you need to turn down the raise by requesting something other than cash at your review. Asking for the flexibility to work from home one afternoon a week, for example, could add value to your life without putting your job at risk.

If you’re already the biggest earner you need to come up with a “give back” that can get you out of long-term danger without creating short- term economic pain. One option is to take a reduction in exchange for working four rather than five days a week, and then use that free day to either take classes or to work on an entrepreneurial venture or freelance assignments.

3. Looks matter

No one likes to hear it, but looks really do matter. If you want to make your current job more secure you need to dress the part. Style isn’t important unless you’re working in the fashion industry. It’s formality that matters. It’s human nature for your wardrobe to become more relaxed the longer you work at a job; familiarity breeds unkempt.

Turn back the clock to the way you dressed when you first started on the job. You need not go all the way back, for example, wearing that tie every day. It’s okay to go with an open collar on casual Fridays.

Pay attention to behavior as well as garb. Be at your desk when your boss arrives in the morning, and still be there when he or she leaves at the end of the day. If your boss works through lunch, do the same. Employers reflexively think time spent away from your desk is wasted or stolen. That means cut out all workplace socializing.

When in the office, you want to either be sitting at your desk or in a formal business meeting. And when you’re at your desk, always be seen working. If that means reorganizing your files or proofreading your documents, so be it.

Rather than being part of that boisterous bunch in the lunch room, take a quick walk and then come back for a brown-bag lunch at your desk. Instead of stopping by to say good night to your boss before you leave, spend some extra time working on a pet project so the table is turned and your boss stops by to say good night to you.

If colleagues notice, you can be honest and say that, the way things are, you thought it smart to renew your job vows. A choice between defiant independence and continued employment is no choice at all.

4. Go bottom fishing

Anyone who thinks they can start a job search when they sense they’re in trouble, and who thinks they’ll be able to soon find an even better paying position in this new employment world, is, to put it bluntly, crazy. From now on you have to be looking for another job all the time.

The model is to go job fishing, not job hunting: Always have your bait in the water looking for bites; don’t wait until you’re hungry to go out and hunt. And don’t focus only on jobs that are the same as or better than your current or previous position.

Be open to lateral moves into other fields or businesses. Interview for lesser positions in your own industry, if it’s with an interesting company, or in other industries if they’re healthier than your own. Be willing to relocate to smaller markets. Some people whose experience is no longer as valued in one area can find themselves a prized catch in another.

5. Keep it in the family

Professional networking today is nothing more than a way to feel like you’re not the only one who’s scared or desperate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s based on a long-cultivated Rolodex or a newly harvested collection of online contacts.

Many in the business world are too busy worrying about themselves to spend time and power helping a peer or a colleague. The places to build your network now are your family, your church, and your communities—both virtual and real.

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