Career Development: Ten Ways to Avoid Getting Fired

Doing a good job doesn’t always mean you’ve got job security. Mark, an executive with a Chicago firm had done a superlative job. But when the company was bought out, the new owners kicked him to the curb.
You can’t count on keeping your job.  That said, there certainly are things you can do to solidify your hold on your position. Here are ten of them.

1) Make Sure You’re Doing What Your Boss Wants  

Seem obvious? Maybe so. But how many people go to work thinking about how they can make the man or woman they work for happy?  That one person often controls whether you will get: ♦ A promotion with a big, fat raise; or ♦ Stagnation; or ♦ A pink slip When was the last time you had a conversation with your boss about what is most important to him/her? Are your efforts aligned with what’s most important?

Are you in synch with the boss’s style?

Is the boss wanting you to be highly autonomous—or does he/she want you to check in frequently? Does your boss prefer face-to-face contact or phone/email? Do you know if your boss will be outraged or very impressed if you decide to make a major decision without consulting him/her? Do you even know the answer to these questions? If not, be sure that you find out.

2) Request feedback — and respond

Be sure to somehow get regular input about how things are going. What needs to be fixed? Make sure you make changes quickly.

3) Don’t be Anonymous

Doing good work is great, but don’t be so wrapped up in your work that you fail to reach out and get to know others in the company. A critical factor in your success is being known and liked. If people perceive you as unfriendly or have no idea who you are, you are vulnerable to being left behind in the promotion and compensation game—and possibly being let go.

4) Make Others Aware of Your Accomplishments

Some people assume that everyone will notice what a good job you’re doing. Don’t bet on it. Most of us, including the boss, pay most attention to pain points—to things that are going wrong. The areas that are going well are often taken for granted. How often do you think about your neck? How often do you think, “My neck is doing a great job! And it’s pain-free!” Maybe never? But when you get a stiff neck or sustain an injury, you suddenly become very aware of your neck. Be sure to keep records of your accomplishments and communicate them to the boss. This justifies keeping you on the payroll and can help get you more money and promotions. One of our clients, a network administrator, learned the hazards of failing to let others know about his work.  One of the company “bean counters,” as he called them, decided that the company could save money by eliminating his position. After all, the network worked flawlessly. After he was let go, the company quickly learned why the network worked so well.

5) Volunteer

Part of being known is to get involved by offering to serve on committees and help with projects that help others outside your immediate sphere know who you are. When you do, let others know about your work and success. You can do this without sounding like a braggert.  You can be informed about what’s happening in the company, and it can get you some great connections. The kind of people who are on these committees and projects are the kind of people who can help in your career.

6) Work hard

People are very aware of who comes in on time or early and stays around after everyone else goes home. They also notice who often comes in late with lame excuses about missing their train, getting a flat tire, or a broken clock radio. In one office where I worked, everyone knew that a certain woman was spending many hours of company time on the phone, planning her wedding.

7) Be Passionate About Learning 

Always be looking to see how you might sharpen your skills. Read. Take training. Listen to webinars. Learn from your co-workers.

8) Make sure you’re using your best skills

If you’re using your left-handed skills (lefties: no offense intended!), it’s tough to be competitive with those who are at their best. Sally excelled in motivational speaking and training, but was reassigned to sales. She can do the job, but she has no passion for it. She will never excel as a sales rep, and wisely chose to do a job search to get her career back on track.

9) Clean Up Messes Promptly

Did you step on someone’s toes? Did you make a mistake? Lose your temper? Take responsibility right away. Don’t leave things to fester. No need to grovel, just be polite and clean things up.

10) Have a Lifeboat Set to Go

Even when you’re doing everything right, there’s no sure thing. It’s more important than ever to have a strong network. Be a part of professional organizations, community groups, etc. Get to know others in your field. Don’t be like Leonardo Dicaprio in the movie, The Titanic, sinking in the icy water when the ship went down. In summary, be aware of your boss and the company as a whole. Be involved and make sure that people know you, your work, and see you as a valuable asset to the team.

Your Job Search: How To Make It Take Longer

Your job search can take much longer than necessary–if you do what the Seattle Mariners once did one day in August 2001. The Mariners had jumped out to a 12-0 lead after just three innings. Doubtless, they relaxed a bit and started to coast. Maybe they started thinking about where they would have dinner or who they would play the next day. The game was over. “Not so fast!” said the Cleveland Indians. They kept chipping away at the Mariners’ lead. They scored three runs in the seventh, added four in the eighth, and then five more in the ninth. Before the Mariners knew what hit them, the game was tied. The Indians won 15-14 in eleven innings.

People start to coast in job search too—and it often costs them.

Our client Dean came to a coaching meeting one day, elated over his good fortune. He’d talked to an old boss who desperately wanted him back. Plus, he’d interviewed with a vice president at one of his target companies. Bam! He’d hit every interview question out of the park. He and this boss really hit it off. After congratulating him on his good progress, I asked him about what else he was doing to further his search. “Nothing. I’m as good as hired. I’m going to take some time off, kick back and wait for the offers to come in.

Continue your job search in earnest

I strongly advised Dean not to take time off, but to continue his search in earnest. But he was confident that his job search was over, and disregarded my advice. Dean, like most of us, would rather stick needles in his eyes than undertake job search activities. So, so if a good excuse to stop presents itself, why not? Unfortunately, a lot of people find that easing up is very expensive. So it was with Dean. It turns out that his former company had recently put in place a new hiring policy. It forbade rehiring someone who had left the company more than once. Dean had two previous stints with the company, and his former boss told him, “Sorry, I didn’t even know about that policy. I can’t hire you.” “No problem,” Dean thought. “The other company will surely hire me.” But as it turned out, an internal candidate applied for the job. Company policy gave preference to the internal candidate. The boss apologized profusely, telling Dean that he liked him much better than the guy he had to hire. An apology and a couple of dollars will get you a cup of coffee.

Starting the job search over

This was a huge letdown for Dean. He said it felt like he had to start at square one again. He wasn’t really, but it sure felt like it.

“Stuff” Happens

Just so you know, this isn’t at all unusual. As they say, “Stuff Happens.” This is especially true in the hiring process. Here are just a few things that can—and do—happen. 1) The employer may find a candidate who she sees as a better fit for the job. 2) Some preferred candidate comes into the picture:  the owner’s nephew or even the boss’s mistress. 3) The economy hits a rough spot or the CFO disappears with a pile of loot, and the hiring budget disappears. 4) Your prospective boss can’t make up his mind, and you’re left dangling in the wind. 5) Many other things are possible. I’m sure you can think of a couple.

Persistence wins the job search game

Don’t do this to yourself. Keep going until you pass the finish line. Instead of being satisfied with one offer, set an ambitious goal. Maybe you could try to get three or four offers. Having a coach or an accountability partner can be very helpful to keep you moving. But whatever you do, don’t go to sleep when success feels within your grasp. You may wind up like the Seattle Mariners. Just common sense? Maybe so. But it’s easy to make common sense mistakes in job search. Want to talk about how you might avoid expensive mistakes? Contact us.