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Bulletproof Your Job
Here's the bulletproof truth: If your superiors don't see you or know who you are, you're very easy to let go. Out of sight, out of mind, and...poof!...you're gone. Accentuating and improving your physical presence and raising your overall profile at work are, together, the first steps toward locking down your job security.
I'll be honest: much of what you need to do is to create a perception that makes you more visible, more notable, and ultimately more valuable to your company. That means, for example, that you don't actually have to pull all-nighters twice a week to show how committed you are to your job. You do need to arrive at work before your boss and leave after she does in order to create the impression that you're there all the time. And you need to go out of your way to meet and engage people...coworkers, managers, even the CEO...who will unwittingly become a part of a team of people who will help you bulletproof your job.
I'm not being cynical, I'm being practical. And I'm not telling you to fake it, I'm telling you to make damn sure you're not invisible at the critical times when decisions are being made about who stays and who goes. Because the invisible guy is the first to go.
1. Arrive early and Stay Late
The joke goes that 80 percent of success is just showing up. I disagree. I think that 80 percent of success is showing up early. More to the bulletproof point, it's showing up earlier than your boss. The rest is a magical combination of talent, exceptional effort, and good luck. For now, though, let's just concentrate on showing up early for work, shallwe?
Arriving at work early shows your commitment and industriousness. Of course, you need to get there only five minutes before your boss or coworkers every day to come off as the world's most committed employee. Besides making it clear to your superiors that you take your job seriously enough to be more than on time, showing up early...before the phone starts ringing or your coworkers start bugging you...gives you valuable time to prepare for your day. Or rather, it gives you time to look as if you're prepared for your day. Sure, it's a bluff, but if you make it a habit, you'll always be ten steps ahead of the idiots who straggle in late all the time.
The same goes for meetings or conference calls or any other appointments. Be there early to get your ducks in a row. Showing up late, looking unprepared or discombobulated, isn't quite the impression to cultivate if you want to keep your job. Bosses and coworkers hate when you show up late for meetings. Hate it. So don't.
No one likes a martyr, but managers love an employee who is willing to stay late in order to get the job done. Be willing to do whatever is necessary timewise in order to complete a project. This doesn't have to make you a slave to your job or a doormat for your boss; do it on an as-necessary basis, and it will demonstrate your commitment to your work.
Here's another easy bluff: Don't stay late, just stay later. Leaving a mere ten minutes after your boss has gone reinforces the impression that you're the world's most committed employee. It also shows that you're not a clock-watching nine-to-fiver. People who say "I'm outta here" the minute the whistle blows every day are bound to be "outta there" come downsizing time.
While you're at it, skip the two-hour lunches...you don't want to be MIA when something important is going down at the office. And you don't want to give the impression that what you do on your lunch hour...such as shopping, going to the gym, or visiting the dentist...is more important than the work that's waiting for you on your desk. Appointments are for weekends, and working out is for before or after work. If you must take care of personal affairs during your lunch hour, be clandestine about it. No one needs to know you're at your techno-Pilates class or getting your eyebrows waxed...especially your boss.
Do step out of the office for lunch or even just a short walk to clear your head. Better yet, do it while your boss is at lunch, so she never sees you not working and never has to wonder where you are. But keep it to twenty minutes or less, unless you're having a business lunch, in which case make sure your boss knows where you are, and aim to keep it to an hour, ninety minutes tops.
There's always someone in the office who can't sit still, always getting up for a cup of coffee, visiting the bathroom ten times a day, endlessly making the rounds to chat with friends. This is not a supereffective visibility strategy. Avoid frequent breaks...you don't want your boss thinking you're away from your desk more than you're behind it. And when it comes to the nearly extinct cigarette break, I say go ahead and smoke like a chimney in your private life, but don't let your superiors see you loitering in front of the building dragging on a cigarette. Everything is wrong with that image.
Be judicious in taking time off. That monthlong bike tour of Italy? Take it another time. No one's saying you shouldn't take a vacation or long weekend to which you are entitled. You should just be very aware of timing and the impression your taking time off gives to your boss and colleagues, especially when things are tough at work. Weekend weddings are generally acceptable; long holidays...especially when business is either busy or slumping...are not. This isn't France, you know!
Pay close attention to exactly what's going in the office when you make plans. Think about spacing out your vacation time in chunks of three or four days at a time instead of two weeks at once, so you're not out of the picture for too long a stretch.Bulletproof Your Job
. Copyright © by Stephen Viscusi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.