Five Ways to Keep a Job During a Recession

5 Ways to Keep a Job During a Recession: Tips for Improving Job Performance

By Bridget Quigg

In the turbulent, toss-about world of work in America, all kinds of people are worried about getting fired. Who among us hasn't seen a helpful, smart, hard-working person get laid off? Being let go is not for last place performers anymore. Everyone is at risk.

Can you avoid the pink slip? You can sure try. While no one may guarantee you a gig these days, here are five ways to keep your job during a recession and improve your job performance.

1. Talk directly to your manager about how to improve job performance

Lay it all out on the table and sincerely ask for advice from your boss about your situation. You're not asking them to butter you up or paint a rosy picture. You're asking for the truth.

Ron Mitchell, career coach and founder and CEO of New York City-based Gotta Mentor, advises on some good questions to ask your boss regarding job performance, "You should take control of this process. In this meeting you should ask two questions. First, what can I improve upon? Second, what additional things can I do to help you do your job better?"

Is asking your boss about job performance considered kissing boss booty? Maybe a bit, but your manager is likely under a lot of stress, too, so finding ways to help them and make them look better means your less likely to be sent packing.

2. Learn other people's jobs

It sounds calculating, but it's true. One of the best ways to keep your job during a recession is to increase your value to your employer. If you can do the work of two, you have a better chance of out-staying your peers. As with any worthwhile fitness program, you must cross-train for greater strength and resiliency. Sean Ebner, regional vice president of the IT outplacement firm, Technisource, emphasizes why this productivity makes a difference, saying, "Make it so that two people would have to replace your work effort, not just half of a person."

And, once you pick up some new job skills or strengthen old ones, let people know. Executive coach Peggy Klaus says, "Connect the dots for people and show them how your strengths can be utilized in other departments, capacities, or fields."

3. Be profitable

If you're not clear how your work either makes the company money or cuts costs – or both – you'd be wise to figure that out soon. If you need help, talk to trusted friends, co-workers and even your boss. Letting your boss know that you're trying to improve your job performance and contribution to the bottom line can't hurt. Plus, it reminds them of how essential you are.

Klaus says, "Be certain that the results you are focusing on and producing are the ones your boss and company value most. Translation: efficiency, cost-cutting and revenue."

4. Toot your own horn – loudly!

No one appreciates arrogance, but staying quiet about your job performance and contributions isn't wise right now. Whatever you do to move the company forward – stay late to complete a project, have a great call with a client, train someone else in a new skill or improve your output – make sure that your boss knows about it. Your resourcefulness and willingness to work hard are attributes most managers want to keep in-house.
John M McKee, founder and CEO of, says "Successful professionals don't wait to get noticed while they toil away on a project."

5. Rise up and take command

Amidst the devastation that layoffs leave behind, you have a unique opportunity to collect the remaining pieces and move quickly into management. As Allison Hemming, founder of The Hired Guns talent agency says, "Be the phoenix. This could be your opportunity to rise to the top." She recommends that when departments are combined, "Take advantage of a re-shuffled deck. Management will be looking for new leaders to prevail."

Plus, that way, when the company is back on its feet, you'll be a time-tested veteran who helped lead everyone through the worst of times. Your job could be more secure and well-paid than ever.

Are Some Layoffs Simply Inevitable?

All advice aside, don't be too hard on yourself. Many experts agree that you can only do so much to protect yourself from a layoff. Sometimes, even your best won't be enough.

Ron Mitchell reminds you to chin up and stand proud should that moment come, "One thing this current job environment has taught us is that no one is immune to layoffs. Companies have for the past few rounds of layoffs been cutting bone not fat. They are laying off people that have been doing a good job."

Looking for more tips on staying employed or finding a new gig during a recession? Check out these other PayScale articles:

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