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How To Avoid Getting the Boot When Layoffs Loom

By Tara Weiss –

That scenario, or variations of it, will be repeated in the coming months as more troubled companies get gobbled up by bigger ones. But it's not a foregone conclusion you'll be let go. That's where you come in.

You have to have the right attitude. As a former Lehman Brothers employee, now a Barclays staffer, says, "It's become a very creative time here." If you want to keep your job, convince the higher-ups you're indispensable.

"If it's a job you really want, it's worth the fight." says Michelle Winkley, director of human resources for an Internet-based company and previous HR manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers and AIG.

The first to go: Staffers who resist change. Those are the people who complain about the new parent company and refuse to get on board -- not a good idea.

Think of this as a new job. Set up meetings with your counterparts in your new parent company, particularly the managers and decision makers. Demonstrate that you're curious about how they do business and ask how you can help. If there are committees being formed to make the transition smoother, volunteer for them.

Don't beg to keep your job. Instead, explain to your bosses that you understand some people will be laid off. Ask how you can help them make the best decision even if you're not chosen to stay. "Ultimately, it pays you back," says career coach Linda Dominguez. "You learn, but it's also networking. In many cases, the boss's job is a duplication too, and that person will go somewhere else. Maybe he'll bring you along."

If you work in a department that doesn't generate profit, like human resources, do more with less. If you work in a profit center, ramp up your sales.

But none of that will matter if you're difficult to work with. Sure, technical proficiency in your job is important, but even more important is your ability to get along with others, communicate, and motivate colleagues.

"Many times, when I have been a part of the discussions, the tie-breaker is behavioral and not technical skills," says Ron Wince, chief executive of consulting firm Guidon. "Do you come to work on time? What is the quality of your work over the long term? Are you always ready to jump in with both feet, or do you have to be sought out?"

One way to show the bosses your enthusiasm is by staying current. Take classes to sharpen your skills and learn new ones. Attend conferences. Don't be shy about letting the higher-ups know you're doing this.

Says Wince, "Sometimes it does come down to skills, and you want to be at the top of your game."

And be nice -- it goes a long way.

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