Fire-proofing your job

May 15, 2000
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No matter where you're located in your company's "food chain," your job is never guaranteed. Mergers, acquisitions, sell-offs or simple cost-cutting could eliminate your position. Or your own actions--insubordination, fraud, misrepresentation, a poor relationship with co-workers--could get you fired.

Sure, the unemployment rate hovers around three percent. Job security might not be your biggest concern. But it doesn't hurt to know how to keep it that way:

1. Be dedicated. Try getting to work before your boss and leaving later. Long hours demonstrate commitment.

Yes, you'll probably be putting in more than eight hours a day. But early arrival has its advantages. You can beat rush-hour traffic. And you'll be amazed by what you can get done before 8 a.m., when the phone rings and hallway conversations strike up.

Early morning is also a good time to meet your boss one-on-one. Perhaps a little bonding will develop, endearing you as a friend rather than just an employee.

2. Speed it up. When your boss gives you a task to do, stop what you're doing and get on it. It's as simple as that.

3. Be supportive. This may be tough, but agreement with your boss is important. When your views differ from his, share your thoughts with him in private. Always support him in public.

4. Set a good example. Interact well with others both on and off the job. You represent your boss, your department, and, when in public, your company. Disparaging comments have a remarkable way of being repeated to the wrong people.

5. Be here now. Too many people today want their boss' job so badly it's all they focus on. That can irritate your boss, his peers, and even your peers. Enjoy what you're doing now and don't think about your next promotion. I've seen more people promoted because they focus on their job rather than trying to find the up button in their career elevator.

6. Keep your cool. People who keep their cool have a propensity for making it to the top in the long run. The cool cucumber ultimately gets kudos for making the company look like it has its act together in public.

7. Zip your lip. Earn a reputation as someone who can be told anything in confidence. If you think you'll impress people by sharing hot inside information, you're wrong. You'll just look untrustworthy.

If your boss discovers you're the leak, he may decide to sanitize what he tells you--or not tell you at all. You just blew your opportunity to be on the inside.

8. Look the part. Wear the right clothing for the right occasion. When in the field, dress down in the appropriate casual attire. When in the office, match what your boss wears. Don't try to make fashion statements, but look sharp. I'm not saying you can't wear Rush Limbaugh ties, just don't wear them every day. As the old saying goes, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

9. Take care of yourself. This goes beyond combing your hair to keeping yourself fit. Personal hygiene reflects on you, your boss, your department and your profession. If you don't care what you look like, others may not care to look at you.

10. Address thorny issues. In safety, there are literally tons of thorny issues and potential land mines. Don't sidestep the questions. Tackle them head on. Allow no room for rumors to creep in.

11. Anticipate problems. Abide by the Boy Scouts' motto, "be prepared." Never expect everything to go as planned. Have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and perhaps even a Plan D. Anticipate your boss's questions and answer them before he asks them.

12. Be decisive. One thing safety professionals hate is decision-makers who waffle. Give the options thought and careful deliberation. But in the end make a decision. And be prepared to alter your course based on additional information.

13. Keep getting smarter. Readers are leaders. To be successful, you better keep learning every day. Stay current on standards, issues and technologies and be able to speak extemporaneously on them.

14. Be flexible. Ever heard the beatitude, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken?" Be ready to do something outside your job description, perhaps even outside your technological comfort zone.

If asked to write an environmental report, research it, find some models, call some colleagues and figure it out. Don't say, "That's not my job!" or "I can't do that!" Be willing to learn a new discipline, especially if you could potentially manage that discipline.

15. Think and act positively. Negative people tend to suck the energy out of you. Be the positive person others like to see coming down the hall.

When handed a tough task, attack it like you would any other safety-related task. Don't act as if it can't be done or you don't know where to start. Just do it and do it well!

Incorporating these crucial fire-proofing tips can help you protect your job by illustrating your corporate worth and keeping your boss happy. Perhaps your name will even come to mind when they think about the next vice president.

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