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How to make yourself layoff-proof

10 tips on taking initiative now to avoid a future trip to the unemployment office.

By , Network World
September 08, 2009 12:07 AM ET

Network World - Despite talk of an economic recovery on the horizon, countless lost jobs won't be replaced and IT organizations are still weighing layoffs as a way to cut operations budgets.

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Recent survey data from Forrester Research shows more than 60% of IT managers expect to cut staff this year.

"Right now, even the boss is worried about his position," says Adam Lawrence, vice president of service delivery at talent and outsourcing service provider Yoh. "They are looking for staff accomplishments to take to their managers to justify the existence of remaining team members."

Here IT professionals and industry experts share 10 tips that could help tech workers stay in their employers' good graces and avoid being laid off, even as the economy begins its gradual recovery.

1. Dig in

IT workers in precarious employment positions need to take on extra work, log more hours and essentially show their employers they want to be there, experts say. With budgets remaining flat or down, IT managers are being asked to assess staff for reductions or potential outsourcing options. You don't want to be the employee who comes up short during such assessments.

"One key thing to remember is that when IT organizations are doing layoffs, they aren't looking for people to get rid of, they are determining which people to keep," says Beth Carvin, CEO of Nobscot, a maker of HR-related software based on Kailua, Hawaii. "Take initiative and do things that would make the company want to keep an employee like you."

For instance, if your company is looking into expanding its wireless network, study up on the technology and offer that self-training as a resource. Or understand what skills might be missing from the team and try to fill the gap – without being asked.

"When I first started, I found there was a shortage of server load-balancing expertise," says Colt Mercer, a network engineer at Citigroup in Dallas and a Network World Google Subnet blogger. "I spent my entire first week studying server load balancing and when an issue came up, I was able to show my worth."

2. Follow the money

IT workers should know what systems and projects ultimately will drive revenue for the business. And they should work to get assigned those projects.

"To the extent they can influence it, IT pros should land themselves on revenue-generating or customer-facing projects," says Sean Ebner, regional vice president for Technisource. "Internal roles are critical, but getting aligned with customers and those activities will make technical workers more valuable to business managers."

If business-related projects aren't immediately available, some advise IT workers to get involved with the sales team, offering up their technical know-how to help them close deals with potential customers.

"Tech workers can go above and beyond by bringing product delivery and sales closer together, and really lift morale because companies need all workers coming together to bring in business," says Michael Kirven, principal and co-founder of IT resourcing firm Bluewolf.

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