Saturday, February 23, 2008

How to protect yourself in a bad job market

When the economy slows down and the job market tightens, it’s time to take a fresh look at your job. Most companies are cyclical in nature and begin to lose earnings and revenue in downturns. Once this starts, job and cost cutting begin.

You’ll first experience the turn of the rumor mill and hear about the “Reduction in Forces” (lovingly called RIFS) or you may see them firsthand. But before you go home to down the bottle of tequila and drown your woes, you need to go on the offensive. Don’t give them a reason to cut you. It’s time to prove your worth. So, here’s what you can do.

1. Align yourself with key players

Identify key decision makers. Even though NO job can be guaranteed during a slowdown, someone will be making the decisions on how to protect the company. Get to know this person or department and think of a project or opportunity you can use to build a relationship.

2. Think of a cost savings initiative

Companies love to cut costs during downturns. Think of your everyday work experience and see if there is someway to cut costs. Develop a way to implement the savings and pitch the idea to management. Even if they say no, you’re proving your effectiveness.

3. Become more efficient

Is something slowing you down? Eliminate anything inefficient and come up with efficiency ideas for the company. No one wants to fire someone an effective employee.

4. Stay positive

Who enjoys working with a miserable person? No one! One of the most important things you can do is keep a good attitude. Don’t give them a reason to get rid of you. If it comes down to you and someone who is always negative, you’ll always win in the end.

Obviously these are just a few ideas. But once you start hearing the word RIFS flying around the office take time to analyze your current role and potential. Most importantly, update your resume RIGHT AWAY! Companies will turn on you in a moment so always prepare yourself for the worst.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to run an effective meeting

Most people think meetings are a waste of time and nothing gets accomplished. Here are some surefire ways to prove those people wrong.

1. Always have an agenda

If you can’t come up with a good agenda, you shouldn’t be having the meeting in the first place. Also, this is your chance to make sure you’ve allocated enough time to the meeting. Giving attendees an accurate meeting time is an excellent way to manage expectations. Does your planned talking points match how long the meeting is suppose to last?

2. Review the attendance list

Make sure the appropriate people are invited. If your looking for a decision to be made or someone to carry out a task, make sure you invite the people who have the ability or authority to get things done. A good idea is to go one level above the people who will be executing the work. This way the direction is coming from their boss and not you. This will give you much more leverage.

3. Prepare the basics

Have an appropriately sized room reserved and schedule a conference call number incase people will be calling in. Always prepare these BEFORE the invitations go out. You need to make things are simple for the attendees as possible. Also, send out meeting materials at least two hours before you meet. This way people will come prepared with questions and discussion topics.

4. Take meeting minutes

Make notes on who does the talking and write down important points brought up during the meeting. This could be your ammunition later on. If someone says they’ll do something, make sure to hold them to it.

5. Send minutes and include follow ups with deadlines

If anyone promises to accomplish something or get back to the group, include these in the minutes and attach the prescribed deadline. This way the entire group (and the individual) knows exactly what is expected.

6. Don’t have worthless meetings

This is the hardest point. It’s difficult to know exactly what will happen during a meeting, but you need to anticipate what you expect the end result to be. If your simply looking for information from a few individuals, it might be best to call them directly. However, if you want cross-collaboration between various departments, a meeting is probably your best bet.

Bottom line: don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face. People respond more when they can’t hind behind e-mails and phone calls. Everything becomes more personal. Plus, meetings are great networking opportunities!