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Staying in the Job Safe Zone

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When we look at our parents' careers, there is one thing they had that is now extinct. That thing is stability. You might want to take this a step further and call it loyalty. Either way, most law firms and companies before the mid-1980s valued loyal and talented employees. Many men and women started at jobs in their early professional lives and stayed in them for most, if not all, of their careers. Employees felt secure because they knew that if they did a good job, most likely they would soar with the firm or company.

Since then, company values have shifted, and the primary concern of businesses is to survive financially. If someone can do your job almost as well as you for half the money, you will most likely be cut if the budget tightens. No matter how well you perform in the workplace, there is always someone else who can "get the job done" — no matter how poor the quality of his or her work is compared to yours — for less money. Many full-time jobs are being taken over by contractors and other freelance workers, slimming down the selection of stable careers. Professionals these days have to be versatile and marketable at all times.

As a result of today's brutal career circumstances, employees must always stay on their toes. And as I said before, no one is safe. Read on to learn some survival tips for staying employed.

1. Just Do It!

Picture this: it's Friday at 5:00 p.m. You've been working your tail off to complete your projects to get away on time this week. Then your boss buzzes you and asks you to see him. So-and-so can't complete the marketing promotion that is supposed to go out next Wednesday. Nice. Not only does he keep you hostage for an hour in his office while he explains how he wants the project done, but you're not even the firm's marketing person. Ugh.

This type of thing happens more often than you might realize. In today's ever-changing job market, many employees are becoming professional multitaskers. If the task is minor or its projects don't need daily attention, usually some lucky person in the company gets to handle the responsibility in addition to his or her other work.

Many law firms today are still catching on to marketing their services, and there is usually no point of contact for this. This means that some attorneys find themselves cutting time away from their cases to market the firm.

There are many other examples of extra jobs we are assigned at work, but no matter what the task is, just do it. Your boss needs to see that you are flexible and a team player. "This is not part of my job description" is the kiss of death, so don't ever utter those words in your office.

There is a positive side to this. The wider the variety of the jobs you do for your company, the more valuable you are to them…meaning you will be one of the last ones to go if they have to lay people off. It also gives you a great collection of extra skills and experience to add to your resume, making you even more valuable to future employers.

So complain all you want to your significant other after work, but be thankful for that extra work; it may be your saving grace in the end.

2. Know Your Destination.

Too many attorneys think within the box. They robotically get their law degrees and look for firms that sound good enough to work for — end of story. No! This should not be it. All professionals can do themselves a favor by creating career goals. Life is too short, so a career has to be carefully planned.

If you haven't already, sit down and think of the perfect career scenario for you. Your ideal career scenario. No matter how grandiose it is, just stick to it. Then, working backwards, trace the steps you need to take to get there. Also think about making yourself more valuable. The more experiences you have early in your career, the better your chances will be of reaching your career goal.

3. Stay Current.

Most industries are always changing and growing...especially the legal industry. Every year, more and more cases take place, which means there's more material to stay current on. Laws are also being changed and created almost daily.

This means that your firm or company requires professionals to be current and knowledgeable at all times. If you can't hang with the gang, it will become known, and you will no longer be safe.

4. Deliver Results.

Becoming too comfortable and not producing great results is something that many people do from time to time...but beware because the moment someone notices, you could be on thin ice.

Sure, we all have slumps at work. Whether you're dealing with some personal problems or just getting burnt out, pay attention to your results. If you really need a break, take the time off and rejuvenate. Then, hopefully, you can produce when you come back. Whatever you need to do, just make sure your boss or team sees that you are pulling your weight.

5. Value Others.

This is a very important element that people frequently overlook. A true and honorable professional values the team he or she works with. In most cases, we have a team of people supporting us; rarely will you complete a project or case alone. Make sure that those who help you receive the positive feedback and credit they deserve.

If you show people that you need and appreciate them, they will become your allies. It's always good to have your coworkers like you. Offices can be poisonous places where your success comes down to who knows you or likes you. It's the harsh truth, but you have to comply with it.

Also, don't just value people who can help you. Respect and appreciate those who are below you because you never know what might happen in the future. Someone who was brand-new yesterday might become your superior a couple years from now. Plus, it's just the humane and kind thing to do.

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