Stay abreast of the latest skills that employers are seeking in candidates for your field by periodically checking job ads, even when you're not in need of a job. "I advise clients to look for two key words on vacancy announcements: required and preferred. Whether a skill is required or preferred, employees need to acquire that skill to stay employable. If a skill is preferred today, it will be required tomorrow, so it pays to stay ahead of the curve," says Palmer.
"My company has frozen salaries. How can I get a raise or negotiate my benefits package?"
While salary freezes are beginning to thaw, many companies are waiting until mid-year 2010 to re-evaluate, says Poole. Proactive employees can still approach their managers for a raise or promotion.
"When times are tough and it's easier for employers to say 'no,' workers need to lay the groundwork for any request, whether it's a raise, time off or a promotion, well in advance," says Friedman. "Start keeping track of your successes and accomplishments. Evaluate your growth and performance from your boss' point of view and make improvements where you think you may be falling short."
For instance, you can contribute more to the meetings you attend, join outside professional associations and take on high-profile projects. "Then," says Friedman, "be ready to make your case."
On the benefits side, think creatively and determine what you need, whether it's a four-day work week or a telecommuting situation or a job share. "It is a time when workers who do remain are able to accomplish creative, value-added benefits and pay. However, it requires the employee to articulate what it is they want, develop a case for it, and fearlessly present it to management," says Poole.
"My workload has doubled because of layoffs. Should I complain, or just be thankful I still have a job?"
In short, be thankful you have a job. "There are likely 500-plus people in line for your job the moment it's posted online," says Poole.
But also look at the positive side to a heavier work load. "It's an opportunity to learn new skills, broaden networks and take on management responsibilities," says Friedman. "Complaining is useless because obviously your new responsibilities were considered before they were assigned, and you likely don't have a lot of leverage."
If your workload becomes unbearable, speak with your manager. But come to the meeting armed with possible solutions. If that doesn't work, take your new skills to the marketplace and look for a new job.
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