Recession-proof your job
He also has maintained his outside network by belonging to eight professional groups. "Some of my friends think I'm nuts for going to so many groups," he said. "Anyone can be a source of a potential new job."

Pitts seems to have taken a page from the playbook that career consultants recommend for employees looking to boost their job security:

•Keep tabs on what's going on internally. Skip the $4 cup of coffee from the neighborhood barista and head for the office coffee klatch when others gather around the machine. Eat at your desk more often instead of heading to the local sandwich shop or going to the gym. It's the best way to keep your ears open to office gossip as well as to potential opportunities elsewhere in the organization.

"Stay plugged in to what's going on and look more interested in what's going on," Kennedy said. "You don't have to work out every lunch hour."

•Perform, perform, perform and look like you're working hard because perception is a part of performance reviews too.

"Companies don't tend to let their top people go," said Steve Werner, a management professor at the University of Houston. "You should be a good employee. In some industries that means being a team player. In some industries that doesn't matter; it means getting all the sales you can."

•Make you and your boss look good by regularly drawing attention to your achievements.

"People assume that other people are aware of the contributions they're making, but your manager may have other things on his mind, especially right how," Dixson said. "It's not about bragging or being a suck-up. It's becoming comfortable with making others aware of your contribution. Couch it in terms of making your boss look good."

Be careful to ensure your self-promotion is matched by performance, otherwise it will fall on deaf ears.

"It's hard to get people to change their mind once they've made a decision about you," Werner said. •Don't whine about an increased workload. Take your planned vacation time but don't complain if you're asked to occasionally come in early or stay late and take on more responsibilities in a slimmed-down workplace. "This is not a good time to be thinking of work-life balance," Kennedy said. "This is all hands on deck; let's bail the boat."

•Document what you do and how successful you are at it, for your current employer and any potential future ones.

•Network internally and externally, but do it carefully. Discretion is key. Don't put your resume on job board Web sites because you never know who might run across it—your supervisor, for example. Don't use your blog or Facebook page to trash your company, but do use social media to promote yourself and raise your visibility by discussing what you're working on.

If you didn't attend a holiday event sponsored by your professional organization, go to the next monthly meeting. It's a good chance to see what opportunities may be opening up at other companies.

"The worst time to start and cultivate your network is when you're out of a job," Dixson said. "Do it double-time now."

•Be prepared for the what-ifs. Update your resume but don't use the company computer because if a layoff occurs, you may not have a chance to retrieve it.

Thinking about changing jobs? Think hard before you make a move; low seniority and performance are the two most common reasons people are laid off.

"What does that mean for you? You need to realize that if you change jobs now, if that company has a layoff, you may be the first to go," Werner said.
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E-mail the reporter: mepodmolik@tribune.com