"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change," Charles Darwin once wrote.
In today's global economy, when jobs can vanish down a fiber-optic cable to India before breakfast tomorrow, it's not how strong or smart you are that matters. It's how adaptable you are to change.
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Will your job survive? To find out, try to answer the following questions:
- Can your daily work be broken down into smaller tasks that can be parceled out to lower-skilled, lower-paid workers?
- Are your company's profits under constant assault by competitors?
- Can your work be done via e-mail or phone, by anyone with a college education and fluency in English?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your job could be eliminated. Even if you're in management right now, the risk is real. But there's good news--and real job security--for anyone who can adapt to change and evolve at work. There are ways to make yourself, and your job, "outsource-proof." It just takes a few changes in how you spend your time at work.
The first goal is to bring in new revenue. Whether or not it's in your job description, finding new business is everyone's responsibility. Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business looking to grow, prosper and create a stable environment for its employees. So, even if you're in accounting or information technology, what one thing could you do to bring in more revenue? If you're not sure, buy your company's top sales superstar a cup of coffee and ask. Then take action to help bring in more money--and make sure your boss knows about the time you've put in.
If you can make it clear to top management that you help produce two, three or more times your salary in new revenue, you can position yourself as an asset that's too valuable to let go. Then the chances of your job being outsourced will shrink fast.
It doesn't stop there. Do you serve as a "connector" among the departments at your company, putting people and resources in touch with each other? If not, why not? When you become the person who can pull teams together, support internal communications and make things happen, it helps make your position and perceived value within the organization more visible. And it makes the case that leaving your job intact is a good business decision. When you can make others better, you'll be the last to go and among the first to get recruited away.
Beyond that, there's a crying need for the human touch--the relationship, mentoring and leadership skills--needed to get projects done, on time and on budget. This elusive talent is always in demand and can help you add value, no matter what your formal role is at work.
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Why not master the fine art of managing projects? If you can learn how to deal with customers, work with vendors and interact with management in ways that satisfy the needs of your organization, you'll make your position more secure in any economy. If you're not the naturally organized type, start small--but start somewhere. Volunteer to organize an after-work event, for example. Or get some on-the-job training by figuring out an ongoing initiative and offering to assist the project manager with his or her work.
Or is there one project at your company that nobody wants to touch? If you did take it on--or at least chipped away at it--would it make you look like a hero? And how much better would you look if you did it with a smile? No matter what you do or where you do it, your job is in jeopardy if you don't continually make yourself more valuable to employers.
In light of this grim outlook, remember that a unique combination of work ethic and personality cannot be duplicated, in this country or overseas. Not now, not ever. So find ways to exceed expectations every day, in ways that won't necessarily add 20 hours to your workweek, but do get noticed by the boss.
Remember Darwin's imperative to adapt, then ask yourself these final questions:
- How much of my job is impossible to do overseas via the Internet?
- How could I make myself even more essential to my company?
- What should I do next to ensure that I remain indispensable?
- When you can rattle off the answers, your employment has earned the title "outsource-proof."
Kevin Donlin is a professional résumé writer, author of the book 51 Ways to Find a Job Fast--Guaranteed and a job-search columnist for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. David Perry is a recruiter, author of the book Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters and managing partner of Perry-Martel International.