Recession-proof your job
5 steps to workplace security.
1. Stay plugged in at the office.
2. Perform. Perform. Perform.
3. Make yourself and your boss look good.
4. Don't whine about an increased workload.
5. Document what you do and your rate of success.

Whether you are sitting in your cubicle or standing with co-workers by the coffee machine, you can see as well as anyone that the jobless rate keeps climbing: The workplace isn't as crowded as it used to be.

Amid one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, layoffs are hitting all levels of many organizations, with little regard to tenure or title.

"Six months ago they cut the fat, three months ago they cut into the muscle and now they're cutting into the bone," said Craig Randall, managing director of the Chicago office of executive search firm DHR International.

It's a numbers game now. And the challenge is to keep yourself from becoming a statistic, from becoming the next person to pack your belongings in a box.

The easiest workplace survival strategy seems a no-brainer: Keep your head down and keep quiet; this is no time to draw attention to yourself.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This isn't the time for no-brainers, say career experts. This is the time to grab hold of your career and recession-proof your job. That involves adjusting your attitude so it fits the seriousness of the times and taking as many specific actions as you can to beef up your performance and prove your worth to your current and perhaps future bosses.

"You need to be in control of you," said Kirsten Dixson, co-author of "Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand."

"It's the whole concept of Me Inc. If they don't notice you, you'll be the first to get a pink slip," Dixson said.

"Laying off someone who is quiet and doesn't say anything is much easier than laying off someone who other people know is working hard," echoed Marilyn Moats Kennedy, a Wilmette management consultant. "The people who try to hide out are the first to go."

Brian Pitts, assistant director of public relations at law firm Mayer Brown, learned the lesson of making himself indispensable seven years ago while working for a public relations agency. When things turned bad and the staff of 100 was downsized to 16, he was one of the survivors.

"I saw a lot of my friends lose their jobs," Pitts said. "I never came to work with fear on my mind. You just need to do outstanding work."

At Mayer Brown, Pitts has worked to build his profile within the firm, getting involved in important transactions and expanding the circle of partners who know him and his work. At a recent office holiday party, he introduced himself to a partner not just by name but also by dropping the name of another partner for whom he had done work.

"That's a fine line you walk," he admitted. "You don't want to be perceived as bragging or fluffing your feathers too much."