8 Ways to Keep Your Job in a Tough Economy

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: August 31, 2012

Show Your Value to Keep Your Job

Layoffs. Downsizing. Reorganization. These common workplace buzzwords are a sign of the times. Today, more than ever, holding on to your job can feel like survival of the fittest, with seriously high stakes if you lose.

One of the best ways to keep your job is to show your organization that it simply wouldn’t be the same without you. In a world where some people will do anything to keep their jobs or earn that coveted promotion, this article will explore eight ways to communicate your value to your employer, without compromising your own values.


That stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

When athletes are tested by tough competition they often go back to the basics, with amazing results. Instead of burning the midnight oil or brown-nosing your boss, focus on the lost art of nailing the basics. Get to work on time, meet your deadlines, and keep your promises. Trends may come and go, but these basic skills will always be appreciated and recognized, and never lose their value.

If you're always where you're supposed to be doing the work you're supposed to do in the timeframe you're supposed to meet, you'll gain a solid reputation as a dependable & necessary employee.

7. Make Others Look Good

When you're on an airplane, you're instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The same principle applies here.

Make sure you've met your own goals first, then do what you can to help others meet theirs. It's really tempting when your job or a big promotion is on the line to let others flounder so you can "win." But remember, if the ship goes down it's likely to take you with it. Those who help others succeed are seen as influential, which is highly valued in today's workplace.

6. Stick to Your Strengths

When you’re feeling the heat it’s easy to look around, see what others are doing well, and try to emulate them. It’s true that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but flattery won’t up your value in the workplace.

It may sound counterintuitive, but instead of keeping pace with others, focus on what you do best. Honing your specific talents and passions will make you unique, and that will increase your value. While it's ideal to be highly skilled in many areas, being exceptional in one area makes you much more valuable than being mediocre at several things.

5. Solve Problems Without Pointing Fingers

Highlighting problems and mistakes made by other co-workers may make you feel superior, but you’ll just come off as a know-it-all who can’t be trusted.

It’s okay to point out problems and mistakes. As a matter of fact, doing so may be integral to the success of your organization. But make sure you do it without blame, and with a solution firmly in hand. Managers are interested in making things work and getting things right first and foremost, so approaching problems in this way will increase trust and camaraderie with both your boss and your coworkers. 

4. Don't Just Let Your Work Speak for Itself

We understand you don't want to be "that guy (or gal)." But in today’s global economy most organizations have lots of moving pieces, which means your contributions may not always be obvious.

So get comfortable with the concept of speaking for yourself and taking some of the credit. If you’ve met an organizational goal, solved a complex problem, or otherwise contributed to the success of your company, find a tactful way to let your manager or supervisor know. Don’t be a braggart, but be sure your accomplishments don’t go unnoticed either.

Logging all of your annual accomplishments in a "brag book" is a great way to keep track of everything and put it on display during your review.

3. Balance Yourself

In today’s uber-competitive work environment, you may be tempted to come in early, stay late, read your emails while on vacation, or take business calls at home. Stop it, already!

While there may be situations wherein these things happen, they should be the exception and not the rule. People who "get a life" and forego the goal of trying to "outwork" their co-workers and colleagues are happier, more involved, and more productive than those who burn the candle at both ends. A smart boss will likely see a balanced employee as someone with the proper priorities, which should up your value.

2. Don't Automatically Say "Yes"

In a tough economy where offers for jobs and promotions are few and far between, it might be tempting to accept any old bone that’s thrown your way. But think twice before accepting things like a simple change in title with a few perks for jobs that deserve much more.

Remember, you set your own value. If it's a genuinely good offer that will help your career then by all means go for it. But if you're being given boatloads of new responsibilities for a nominal increase in pay or status, your value could diminish if your managers know you can be bought off so easily and without a whimper.

Consider all your options carefully and make the best decision for you.

1. Learn How to Negotiate

When it comes to job offers and promotions, you can increase your value simply by understanding what you’re worth and sticking to your guns.

Check out the salaries and perks within your industry and location, and decide what is acceptable to you and what is not. Use your newfound knowledge as a foundation to negotiate, and if the offer isn’t acceptable don’t be afraid to walk away. When you value yourself enough to stand up for what you believe in, others will value you as well.

If you don't advocate for yourself, no one else is going to either.

What's the Best Avenue for Success?

Think about successful people you’ve known and admired throughout your career. What increases someone’s value, in your opinion? Decreases it? What steps not mentioned in this article have you taken to increase your own value? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section, so we can all work on building our value!

Recommended Reading

Thank you for reading. As an added bonus, the Salary.com editorial staff has compiled a recommended reading list regarding this topic. Enjoy:

  • How to Keep Your Job in a Tough Competitive Market: 101 Strategies You Can Use Today
  • 101 Ways to Make Yourself Indispensable at Work
  • Survive Downsizing: How to Keep Your Job & Become Indispensable to Your Company
  • How to Keep Your Job