Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Experts offer survival tips as job cuts spread

December 4, 2008

So, you’re one of the lucky ones. Name on your office door. Extra-glossy business cards. A bit of seniority.

Think again.

While recent MBA grads prowling for work face the uneviable task of breaking into the financial ranks for the first time (gasp!), the barrage of layoffs that’s spread into the upper echelons of the industry in recent months shows that title-toting execs face a formidable challenge of their own – protecting their hides. The recession’s official, more jobs will be cut and there’s no reason to assume your’s won’t be one of them.

With such rosy thoughts in mind, the folks over at BusinessWeek put together a helpful video detailing some of the practical steps you can take to protect your job. One suggestion, courtesy of executive coach Meredith Haberfeld, is to throw conventional wisdom out the window.

Keeping a low profile during tough times, she says, does nothing to secure your future. “Work your tail off,” she insists.”But make your successes and results visible. Not empty results.” She also suggests you find ways to show you care about the company’s bottom line, not just your own.

Elsewhere, the Harvard Business Review offers slightly less selfless advice. “Machiavellian as it may seem, holding on to your job when the economy softens is a matter of cool strategic planning,” write Janet Banks and Diane Coutu. And in addition to thinking like a survivor, they, too, encourage old-fashioned hard work. “If you’re not already wearing multiple hats, start imagining how you can support your company by leveraging experience your boss may know nothing about.”

What are you doing to protect your job? Share your thoughts below.


BW offered some of the most ridiculous unthoughtful suggestions i’ve seen to date. The comment from BW “work your tail off” and “but make your successes and results visible” and to “find ways to show you care about the company’s bottom line, not just your own”. Are we to believe that the job losses are a result of the unemployed not already making this a practice everyday they went out to provide for their families with “old-fashioned hard work”?????? And yet the reward: unemployment for the everyday…bailout for the big companies…no bailout for the unemployed. Please come with something more thoughtful and practical and better than this.

Posted by Jessup | Report as abusive

this has got nothing to do with caring about the company’s bottom line…the people who will suffer most in this are those corporate creatures who have become so emeshed in the politics of their respective companies that they have lost all sense of why they are there in the first place, or even what value they add.
The one’s who will pull through are those who are flexible and adaptible, know how to leverage their knowledge and skills both in and outside their respective corporate environments, have loads of initiative, a good sense of self reliance, and who above all understand the mechanics of supply and demand and are prepared to look after their own hides first and foremost…

Posted by farga | Report as abusive

It’s time to get down to good old survival of the most devious. If you want to protect your place in the food chain, I suggest literally eating your co-worker’s for dinner.

Just invite them over for a “meal to die for” and take it from there, side note this will also save you grocery money!

After your bosses notices the rash of absences at your office they’re bound to retain or promote you.

If cannibalism is a bit too much for you, you could always secretly bring in a batch of Krispy Kreme doughnots laced with LSD to the office and then demand a drug test because everybody is acting wacky.

Either way is bound to make Machiavelli and your wannabe Gordon Gecko boss proud.

Posted by Jimbosaurus Rex | Report as abusive

wait until 01 02 09

Posted by alfonso | Report as abusive

Let’s be realistic about this entire wall street, investment and big goverment debacle. The unemployed “worked their tales off” and played “office politics because “that is the way it was always done” and that is the way it was taught in the “elite” University School’s of Business. American workers need to understand History and who has the power, Big Government and the 1% of the rich. The supposed “middle class” doesn’t even know anything about these people or their own government (our fault) ….. Most importantly when will all levels of government start “laying off” inefficient and under-worked employee’s? So this Governmental “privileged CLASS” can enjoy the “new world” without their guaranteed pensions, elaborate health benefits etc, which you pay for… 1 out of every 10 government employees at the Federal, State, County, and local levels should be immediately “layed off”. Why do I say this, you might ask, simply because I was one of this “privileged class” for a long time. I pretended to be a “governmental auditor” who documented the waste and inefficiency of “big Government” why I “gleefully” accepted my substantial paycheck, generous health benefits, 30 vacation days, 4 personal days, holidays, 13 sick days and a 37.5 hour work week and of course my “my pension for life”. Yes, I am a hypocrite “get what you can”, right, is the “office Talk” of this “Privileged Government Class”, my compliments to Governor Edward Rendell and thank you!


Alfonso sums it all up: Wait until January. The whole financial industry is on its way to shrinking hugely.

Some of the people – from Wall Street CEO’s and derivatives specialists to loan officers and ARM brokers – deserve to lose their jobs, if not also their years of undeserved compensation. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of others are going down with them.

The old rules of working the system to protect your job are not applicable here. If you have a role that is worthwhile in the “new” financial world, you have a shot. If you were involved with mortgage finance or other leveraged and toxic trash, forget about it. Time for a career change.

Posted by onthestreet | Report as abusive

This is common sense advice. It is imperative that employees demonstrate that they have an actual value to company that is being financially strained and looking for the deadwood to cut.
Of course, most comments here will predictably be vicious anti-management rants. But lets face it…the virus that has diseased our economy, was giving unwise credit to bad risk/low achievement people; who defaulted. It is the fungus which rotted our financial roots…reckless SOCIAL ENGINEERING. Now caught up in the reprecussions, managers across the board in every sector find themselves scrambling with the mission of company survival. If you are an employee putting your energy into whining instead of demonstrative productivity—the ax will be likely to fall on your head; and deservedly so. Now is NOT the time to jabber away with your perpetual class resentment garbage….you want to keep your job; it’s time to be a team player more than ever! So, GROW UP!

Posted by Thogwummpy | Report as abusive

Regardless of what the American People want Washington continues to send our hard earned taxpaying dollars into the pockets of the corrupt, greedy, mismanaging, shameless leeching CEO’s as well as fellow politicians and any one else that comes along with their privileged hand out. Sixty-seven percent of the American People have said no bail-outs! Apparently, The People mean nothing, know nothing and are not needed. Where will Washington get money if the country has nothing to give? The Big 3 have cornered the market long enough. They have mismanaged, been short sighted and spent far too much time concerned with luxury and greed. Let them fail. Give the money to the auto workers and screw the companies. The only reason Washington is giving money to The Big 3 is because they, their families and friends have heavily invested in them and stand to lose their own money. It has nothing to do with the unemployment of The People which Washington cares nothing about other than to suck us dry through taxation.

Obama’s brainstorm of throwing money at the infrastructure is pathetic as well. I don’t know how to build bridges. Where does that leave me? While we’re on the subject, where did all the money from tolls and taxes designed to be put toward the infrastructure go? Was it misspent and earmarked and pork-barreled away? Now “The People” should foot the bill twice for that too? Politicians have lived lives of corruption and greed for a very long time and it is all coming back to them now. The People want transparency. The People want to know each and every public servants personal assets and value prior to taking public office and we want to know what their assets and values are now. How much have they each taken for personal gain from The American People? How much has been given to their friends, family and relatives under the guise of earmark? What makes Pelosi think she is so important that she should have access to a private jet at the taxpayer’s expense? She should be replaced TODAY!

Buy bailing out the CEO’s we have already purchased the product so start sending our cars to us. We should own AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To dole out our money and give us nothing in return is bad business. The People cannot afford to buy the product, we already did! We should boycott GM, Ford and Chrysler and any one else that recieved bail-outs.

Posted by Eydie Mizzi | Report as abusive

Eydie you don’t know how to shovel dirt? Any job is better than nothing if you can’t buy food. Think again.

Posted by Gale | Report as abusive

Rent yourself a copy of “Sweeney Todd”… pour economy police creates an ocean of unemployed, rather than compete with them, make meat pies out of em.

Posted by einstein | Report as abusive

Don’t worry, when Beloved Leader takes over, things will be wonderful!

Just look at what a great job the Democrats have done in Congress these past two years.

Posted by Spanky1 | Report as abusive

What’s special about 01-02-09?

Posted by Mickey | Report as abusive

Here’s a survival tip for us all. Don’t vote in another Washington incumbent. We need new representation that is not in the pockets of the financial elite from around the globe. We need representatives who are willing to live up to their oath.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

“Work harder” is over used, and not an accurate assessment of what makes you valuable. If you work your butt off, but you don’t pass value to other workers or departments you are expendable. Companies don’t keep the hardest worker, they keep the employee that delivers the most value.

Diversify. Increase your skills and value to other departments and other employees. That added value increases your importance and can save your job when it’s time to make cuts in your department. It also provides the added opportunity to stay with the company but in a different capacity.


Mack M. – you hit it on the nose! Working harder does not guarantee anything. I have worked hard all my life, as a permanent, full-time employee, as a permanent, part-time employee, down-sized twice without any notice just a knock on the door, and now an self-employed Unemployed) in real estate! I have seen many ups and downs due to company “restructuring.” I have been told many times in various places of employment, “oh, you’re great, you work too hard, slow down, you’re too professional, you’re intelligent, etc.” only to be shown the door.

Companies “keep the employee who delivers the most value.” Bingo! What needs to be added is that companies value the bottom line – profit, not employees, unless the employee increases the companies profit!

I don’t care about how hard-working someone is, if a company wants to cut expenses, it will, period. Employees are expendable, period. And that is quite a shame because employees are a companies greatest asset!

I have worked hard for 20 years and been over-the-top responsible since childhood. Where has it gotten me? Nowhere, per se, in the corporate world. I could always get a job at a fast-food restuarant, work my butt off, and for what? Been there-done that as a teenager. Everyone reading this can do the same, really, but for what? That is not the point of work!

Enough of “work hard” crap; it’s a lie. Pursue what you love in some capacity, if even on your weekends, and yes, do contribute in a positive manner in your workplace, but keep your accomplishments well documented and resume up-to-date each month! Anyone can be shown the door. Companies are all about making a profit!

Posted by renee | Report as abusive

great posting: thanks for sharing that


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