Five tips for building job security

A few basic strategies can mean the difference between keeping your job and joining the ranks of the unemployed. Here are some job-retention pointers for IT pros.

The economy keeps promising to take a turn for the better. Problem is, the minute it seems there might be an upswing, it turns back into a downturn. That, of course, seems to be our current pattern of ups and downs, so not much has changed with regard to job security. As a result, we have to do everything we can to protect our jobs from downsizing.

You can do certain job-specific things to safeguard your position. But there are also some general strategies that apply to almost every aspect of IT. Here are five of what I consider the best ways to ensure job safety across the largest cross-section of positions.

1: Know your network/system topology better than anyone

If you're one of many network or system administrators, it works to your advantage to know that topology and/or those systems better than anyone else. You always want to be the one that others point to when there is a question. If you're the go-to person, you're more likely to have a job when a round of cuts comes.

But don't just know the layout. Also know the reasoning behind it. Why are you using Cisco over Sonicwall? Where is the documentation that contains all pertinent information on the systems? What is the fastest method of remoting in from point A to point Z? How did your company deploy its desktops? There are many questions you should know the answers to. Be that person who knows them.

2: Make sure others see your results

Although you run the risk of looking like a show-off, you should make sure the right people know about your accomplishments. When you successfully deploy that virtual environment, be sure the powers-that-be know who is responsible for that success (if that's a single person or a team). When you are the one responsible for getting your company's code to work right, let them know.

But do not do this as if you are patting yourself on the back. Do this in a subtle way. Instead of saying, "See what I did?" say, "This is what I was able to accomplish thanks to..." You can fill in the blank with team members, specific software titles, even something like "management approval."

3: Treat your end users like friends, not enemies

This is a tough one for some IT administrators and support personnel, many of whom who see end users as beneath them or not worthy of their time. When this attitude comes through, the end users don't feel like they can trust you or count on you. You may be the most brilliant person on your team, but if your bedside manner stinks, no one will want you near their desk. To avoid this, treat your end users as if your job depends on their returned support. Why? Because often it does.

4: Show the company you can help save money without having to reduce staff

There are many ways to save money. You can deploy reliable systems. You can deploy reliable systems quickly. You can make sure the systems you roll out are well protected from the ills that afflict computers on a daily basis. You can make use of open source. You can multi-task. Your goal should be to make sure you (and/or your team) save the company enough money to warrant the retention of staff. This may also mean keeping machines running in top shape for a much longer period. "Whatever it takes" should be your motto.

5: Step outside your own knowledge base

We are all prone to wanting to dwell in that space that makes us comfortable. For me, it has always been (and probably will always be) Linux. But when I venture beyond that comfort zone, I discover there are more clients to support. I can ensure my own personal "retainability" by not being afraid to learn (and master) something new. If you refuse to venture outside your comfort zone, you may be replaced by someone who has already taken the leap outside their own shell. Don't be a one-trick pony, or you will find yourself trotting off the company property with your belongings in a cardboard box.

Other strategies

How many of these tips can you apply to your current situation? Have you been successful putting some of them to work? Share your own job-preserving advice with other TechRepublic members.