Ask LH: How Can I Keep My Job?

Ask LH: How Can I Keep My Job?

Dear Lifehacker, My employer has just dismissed a bunch of people from my workplace. My role is now being combined with another, and myself and the other person in the other role are having to complete a merit process to see who “keeps” their job in the coming weeks. Any tips on ways to make yourself stand out between now and the interview stage for the job? Thanks, Jobfight

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Dear Jobfight,

You have our sympathy: it’s never any fun having to compete to keep your own job, especially when even the best-case outcome presumably means you’re going to have a heavier workload than before.

The essential requirements should be obvious: be punctual, be cheerful, be productive. Beyond that, the most important step is to establish who will actually make the decision, and make sure you know which criteria you’ll be judged upon. Under the circumstances, there’s no point being coy about this: better to ask up front. As we noted recently when addressing the question of how to make a temporary position permanent, you need to make it clear that you’re interested in keeping the position.

Equally important: don’t slag off or undermine your rival for the position. It can be tempting to try and demonstrate your superiority by pointing out your opponent’s flaws, but it’s a strategy that’s very likely to backfire. In a workplace with fewer employees, teamwork becomes more important than ever.

Since there will be a formal interview process, you need to prepare for that too. Update your resume and make sure it reflects your achievements in your current position, as well as emphasising the experience which got you there. Prepare for potentially difficult questions using the STAR technique, and plan carefully so you will stand out.

I’d love to hear from readers on this one: what would you do in these circumstances? Share your ideas in the comments. Good luck Jobfight!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • As you’ve worked in the position for a while, I’m sure you know, but it can’t hurt to brush up on exactly what they’re looking for. You may just demonstrate what you know, but the company may have forward-looking plans (for example, maybe a BYO device plan, looking to set up a new office in other town or even adopt a new management style) that perhaps you should look into and demonstrate.

    As LH has pointed out before, knowing what you’re applying for in a new job can make a difference, as you know where to focus.

    Of course this is just advice. I haven’t been in a situation you’re in (but I may soon :|) but this is just what I think.

  • Politics, and the human connection. Figure out who’s making the decision. Suck up to them. Make their life easier. Buy them a beer, and make it so that they’d feel bad firing you, at least worse than firing the other guy. Do something to allow the decision maker to take the credit for something good you’ve done, so you prove to him that it’s in his interest to keep you around.

    Start an untraceable rumour around the office that your rival had been looking for another job already, or was stealing office supplies.s

    Fight dirty. But look clean.

    • I dont recommend this approach. The fact is most people see through these tactics, especially if they dont come naturally. Fight positive and good people will want you around, and you will want to stay. Fighting dirty rubs off onto you, and smart people will know. Even if you win the job in the short term, you’ve damaged your personal brand long term.

  • Sometimes it’s completely out of your control. Some faceless number-crunching minion in a neon-lit and far away office will redline the cell in a spreadsheet which contains your employee number, and that’s it. what you have to be good with is you – you have to do a what you consider to be a good job, be accountable to, and able to live with, yourself. Sometimes you do things, but sometimes things happen (or are done) to you – it’s how you respond to that which matters. Sometimes being cut loose is a good thing – do you really want this ‘combined’ job..? Will you be getting double the pay for double the work…? I think it’s worth asking these questions before you even decide what outcome you want. Whatever you decide on, I wish you well with it.

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