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How to Fireproof Your Career

A CEO and hiring manager reveals how to create your own job security. —By Michael Martin

The economy may have rebounded — although you may have missed it — but it's been replaced by a corporate world in which constant downsizing and "reorganizations" are the rule, not the exception. Today, if you haven't been let go at one point, you're an outlier. But that doesn't mean you have to adopt a fatalistic view of your career — that'll be fatal to your motivation and have an obvious effect on your performance. You do have a serious element of control. Here are four expert tips on how to ensure job security in an era that's anything but secure.

1
Stop trying to fit in

"People spend a lot of time and energy trying to fit in, and that's actually the worst strategy, because it increases your pool of competition," says Peter Bregman, a CEO and author of Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want. "If you look like everybody else, you're easily fireable. But if you're different, it's easy to fire one of the crowd and keep you."

2
Add unique value to the company

As Alec Baldwin barked in Glengarry Glen Ross, always be closing. Obviously, you want the benefits you bring to your firm should be a tangible positive net for the bottom line. But you can't stop there. Your singular work value can also involve your personality and tightness of your relationships in and outside of the office. "It might come from your personal brand and being more visible," says Bregman. "Or having strong client relationships, being easy to work with, having ideas or being better prepared."

3
Choose a number of mentors

In a time when seismic staff shifts are the status quo, you don't want to bet on the wrong horse. Your mentor or hiring manager's chances of being around next quarter are as good as anyone else's. (Meaning: Not necessarily.) "It's better to build several broad relationships and stay in those relationships in a way that you'll have a lot of supporters," says Bregman.

4
Brag about other people first

Although it might feel like it, the modern office isn't Survivor — you won't get more points for trying to make the other guy look like the weak link. And in fact, flying your own flag shouldn't be your focus — Bregman says you should always promote your colleagues' accomplishments and positive qualities before your own. "Trying to get visibility for yourself makes you a target, and it also makes you sound and feel really kind of junior and needy," he says. "If you talk up other people, that reads much more senior. And it makes you lots of friends at the same time."