How To Bump Up Your Career Status In an Economic Downturn (If You Have the Stomach For It)

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When someone's head is on the block, you may as well offer to pick up his or her accounts.

So says San Francisco-based career coach and jobs transition specialist Don Asher, author of several books including, Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why.

"You can't always get paid in a downturn but you can amass power," Asher says.

Harsh though it may sound, if someone in your office is not at the top of his or her game and you see the writing on the wall that 'George' is apt to lose his position through a reorganization-while your own business has been going strong-you might just decide to take the bull by the horns.

"Take your boss to coffee and let him know you can pick up George's' accounts-that if there's going be some reorganization, you're capable of supervising more people, more accounts, etc."

Asher admits this is a somewhat controversial approach-you really have to believe this person's career at the company is over to not feel like a major sleaze. If you're convinced that's where things are going you might even suggest a pay scenario your boss will find tempting, such as offering to take over George's book of business for a relatively small sum, allowing the company to put more toward the bottom line.

"It may feel like a weird way to get a promotion," says Asher, but the fact of the matter is, if push comes to shove and they're going to "rightsize," or reorganize and lay people off with the need to justify every position, the approach in question can be a good strategic move. "

"You're not kicking George out of the window," says Asher: His job was gone anyway. (If that's not the case, don't invade his territory. No one likes a backbiter, and remember that in this scenario, George won't be going anywhere, and word is likely to get around, so it pays to be extremelly careful about the quality of your intelligence.)

Keep in mind, too, that taking on more responsibility will not necessarily mean a bump up in ordinary compensation, at least not right away.

In the current "employment recession," Asher says, amassing more career credibility and prestige can serve you well even if you don't immediately "monetize" your new responsibilities.

The real upside will most likely come later on-even if you have to ultimately change employers now that you have your new job title and a substantially enhanced resume. (Job tiles are important, says Asher, and they cost nothing, so do try and get an impressive new title even if you don't see more money just yet.)

And down the road when the employment market is in better shape, you'll have the three following options:

1) Get your existing employer to finally pay you for carrying them during the downturn. If for one reason or another that doesn't happen:

2) Present your current employer with a counter offer-knowing that now it will be clear you are in the market for a new position. That's the risk you take when you counter. Finally you can make the choice to:

3) Move along, with your new skills, and find another employer to pay you the going market rate.

One major caveat: If you choose to employ such a strategy, just be sure you don't bite off more than you can chew. "You've got to know you can double your workload," for instance, says Asher, observing that "I talk to high performers all the time, and there are some very talented people who just can't delegate."

If you know you're a "hypercontrolling perfectionist," let's say, it may not be realistic to recommend doubling the size of your team, for instance, as you'll be apt to want to micromanage everyone.

"Real managers can handle that challenge," says Asher. "Whether they're supervising a fast food joint or a Wall Street bank.

"A manager can scale up or down as needed," he says.

"And in a tight time, you scale up."

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