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Science Careers Blog

March 2, 2009

Bulletproofing Your Job

Published last fall by headhunter-turned-author Stephen Viscusi, Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work, offers advice on how to keep your job in tough times.  This is no time for half-measures or the faint of heart, Viscusi says: "You must understand that your job is your most valuable asset, and your primary objective is to protect it."

Viscusi says the single important factor in keeping your job is what your boss thinks about you. "Here's the cold hard truth: If you don't click with your boss, all that merit and pedigree won't get you anywhere when your job is on the line," writes Viscusi in the book's introduction. "People make this mistake all the time, thinking it's their good work and fine resume that matters. What really matters is what your boss thinks about you. That's it, in a nutshell."

His four strategies are: Be visible. Be easy. Be useful. Be ready. Time magazine's review says that being visible means getting to the office before the boss, staying late (at least for a few minutes) after the boss goes home, postponing that long vacation or sabbatical, and no telecommuting.

Being easy means cut the whining about your workload, or the cubicle, or anything else. Even in good times, the boss doesn't want to hear it. Being useful means taking on the extra task or doing your regular job with extra flair.

And being ready requires having alternative survival plans in case the first three strategies don't pan out: adding to your bank account, keeping your résumé current, and maintaining your network of contacts.

In science and engineering at least, Viscusi's strategies won't hurt, but you still have to produce--the "be useful" part. If you miss a grant application deadline that your department is depending on, or fail to get a major grant or several publications during the first several years of your tenure-track appointment, being visible or easy probably won't help much. 

To keep your job in bad times, you'd better nail the "be ready" part as well.

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