How to keep a Job in Tough Times
William Cottringer, Ph.D.

“The quickest way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” ~Oscar Wilde.

In tough economic times, it is not a good thing to be unemployed. And if you are lucky enough to have a job, you don’t want to do anything to lose it by doing or not doing something under your control. In most states misconduct or quitting for no good cause will keep you from being eligible for unemployment benefits. And sometimes, you can even be proactive to avoid being laid off.

It is always better to have a job than not. Work is a third of your life and being able to contribute your abilities to the company, school, team, government agency or non-profit organization you work for, always goes a long way to your overall happiness and success in life. Below are a seven solid common sense tips on how to keep your job in tough economic times:

1. Follow The Rules.

Every employer has work rules and policies which are made and enforced to help the business meet its goals and avoid problems that hurt the business, public or other employees. Violating these rules is a sure way to be unemployed through your own fault. Unexcused absences, acts of dishonesty, being rude and unprofessional or anything that is deliberately done against what an employer has a right and need to expect to be successful in what the business or organization is trying to do, is too disruptive. This will not ever get positive attention or results in keeping a job anytime—feast or famine, but especially in tough economic times. Know what the rules are and respect your employer by following them.

2. Create Value In What You Do.

It is smart to learn how do something others can’t do as well, in creating special value for your employer in building your worth and job security. In X Company Bill isn’t a lawyer but has learned enough about the law in his State to help cut costs for his company by doing the paralegal research on some complex cases. In Company Y Mary didn’t get a degree in computer science but she helps create value the company by helping the IT person update the company web page from what she has learned at home. Take an inventory of your special talents or interests and learn how you can “volunteer” these special abilities in contributing greater value to your employer.

3. Be A Team Player.

Most people don’t lose their jobs through incompetence or poor job performance, but rather because of personality conflicts with the boss, supervisor or other employees, or through character flaws (which has already been covered under # 1 Follow the Rules). Save your independent streak for home or hobbies after work, but while at work realize that it is through good teamwork that your organization succeeds and successful organizations don’t have to lay off workers and certainly won’t want to fire you. Look for ways you can cooperate and help other employees do things you may be better skilled at doing like writing reports, doing Internet research, crunching numbers, setting up more efficient e-mail retrieval, dealing with angry customers or moving paperwork faster. Remember: The team always gets more done as a whole, than any individuals can alone.

4. Learn What Your Company Needs Most.

In tough economic times, companies and employees have to learn how to constantly adapt to changes in operating methods, business marketing strategies, customer relations and every other aspect of doing business. The urgency of mastering the change process can’t be understated today. Showing this sense of urgency in what you are doing at work is the quickest way to be noticed in a positive way; not showing it is the quickest way to become unemployed. Learning to be flexible in changing your own work style and approach and then applying it to helping your company get to where it needs to go to be successful, is a sure way to keep your job along the way and long afterwards.

5. Value Your Job.

We are all not lucky enough to be in our perfect dream job. You may even be in a job you dislike which isn’t really using your talents or challenging you enough. But having a job is always better than the alternative (as the Oscar Wilde quote above aptly intimates), and there is always some reason you are in a particular job at a particular time to learn something important for the next one you might be moving into. Whether you like your job or not, give it your best effort and learn the intended lesson, so that you can move on sooner rather than later (be sure and notice Drew Carey’s quote at the end). In the meantime, keep your feet on the ground focusing on taking one step at a time in the job you are doing, whatever it may be, and avoid gazing at the moon and falling down.

6. Don’t Worry About Others.

It does no good to worry about what others get or don’t get in relation to you at work. That is just a complete waste of time which in turn inevitably makes you unhappy and wanting something different than what you have. There is never any happy ending to that vicious circle to nowhere. When you focus all your energy and efforts in doing the best you can by doing all the right things at work to the best of your ability and full concentration, you feel more satisfied and don’t have any time to be needlessly worrying about other employees or supervisors. You can control what you say and do, but not others.

7. Learn from Your Mistakes.

The employee who doesn’t make mistakes doesn’t make much of anything. But if you can avoid making a fatal mistake, like costing the company a huge financial loss or talking gossip about the bosses’ husband and getting caught, then reflect on situations you did mostly right and think about how to change the few things you might have done a little better. This is really an attitude that you don’t know it all and can always keep learning more—especially from the smaller mistakes that keep you from being the best employee you can be. Learning, growing and improving is the best path to success and happiness at work and life in general.

Apply these seven suggestions and you won’t be worried about losing your job, now or later.

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.” ~ Drew Carey.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence); “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree); and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management;” (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); and “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or