How to Protect Yourself if Layoffs Come

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Never forget career development. Besides building your skills for the next move, it shows your boss that you're a go-getter. Managers take notice when employees mention their career-related activities outside work, like volunteering for professional organizations or coursework. "When someone takes their own profession seriously, I take them seriously," says a partner at a regional accounting firm.

Give and Take Credit - For Good Work and Bad

Ivan Illan, director of financial planning and investments at the Los Angeles-based Michel Financial Group, urges employees to let their accomplishments be known to higher-ups. Just be careful about being a braggart.

"You have to be your own champion and cheerleader, no one is going to do it for you," he says. "But instead of pointing out what you've done, turn it around to promote the team. That always reflects positively on the person carrying the message."

Illan says that a carefully crafted e-mail cc'ing your manager and his or her direct report is an effective way to keep your name and accomplishments top-of mind. Mention by name colleagues who participated in the project. "People higher up the ladder want to hear from those working in the trenches. Often those stories don't get sent up the chain," Ilan says.

Also, keep track of your own performance and metrics in an electronic file for review time. "It's always best to run your own review meeting as much as possible," Illan says.

But remember that self-promotion is a two-way street. You also have to take ownership when things go wrong. "You have to acknowledge that it was not one person who sank the whole thing," Illan says. Instead, send a similar e-mail which assumes responsibility in your role for poor performance. But give it a forward-looking spin. Use terms like "it was a learning curve," "issues that had not been addressed before," and "lessons we will apply to new situations immediately."

Think Big Picture

Lisa Hastings, partner at accounting firm Faw, Casson in Dover, Del., appreciates when employees forward her a newspaper or journal article, or mention a client-relevant current event in a meeting. "That tells me they're thinking about the bigger picture," she says. "Bringing things and ideas to your boss gives you face time with people who can influence your career."

Be Professional - and Old-Fashioned

Patrick Gorman, who heads the iFind accounting and financial recruitment firm, urges younger workers to be thorough, professional and formal in their office communication.

"This is a generation that's very used to using text messaging, Twitter and e-mail, and they carry it to the workplace - bosses are getting memos in e-mail language," Gorman says. "It creates tension in the workplace and can really hurt your job security when you're communicating with the boss with things like 'C U later.'"

Formal expressions of gratitude serve double-duty. "When did anyone in this younger generation write a thank-you note?" he asks. "Not only does writing one project professionalism, it's also an act of being grateful, and showing that you don't feel entitled."

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