By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist
Q: My employer just got bought out by a competitor, and one by one my co-workers are getting laid off in favor of people with similar jobs from the new company. I'm nervous; I'd like to keep my job, but I'm afraid that I'm going to be fired to make room for another employee with similar job skills. What can I do to avoid getting fired?
A: It's natural to worry about getting fired when your employer merges with a competitor, since there is bound to be overlap in staff between the two companies. In addition, management will be more comfortable surrounded by people it knows and trusts, which increases the odds that when faced with the choice between laying you off or dumping one of their own, you'll be the one who gets the axe.
The problem you face is simple: just like your now departed co-workers, you are an unknown quantity. Your new managers have no reason to save your job, since they don't know what you can do. But while this problem is a basic one, unfortunately the solution to it is not. If you want the new regime to keep you on board, you will have to find ways to quickly become an enthusiastic and valued member of their team.
So how do prove your worth to your new manager? Especially a manager who may be predisposed against you because you come from the "other" company? You need to create an internal PR campaign – one designed to showcase your unique skills and make yourself an integral part of your company as it undergoes restructuring. Follow these steps to help keep your job after your company undergoes a merger or acquisition:
Are you worth the salary you pull down? Are you genuinely adding value to the organization? Or have you been coasting with your productivity on the decline? If you find any problems with your overall job performance, quickly find a way to fix them. Your new managers may not care too much about firing you since you're a stranger to them, but compiling a record of poor performance only makes doing so even easier.
Find out which job skills executives from the new company equate with success. Try to understand their vision for the future, and what they're hoping to gain out of taking over your company. Show genuine interest in their goals, and look for ways to play a role in achieving them. Refuse to adapt and stubbornly stick to "the way we used to do things around here," and you're likely to find yourself at your local unemployment office in no time.
Once you understand your management's direction, identify ways that you can assist in their efforts to improve profitability, revenue, customer service, product design, operation systems – or whatever areas the company feels are of critical importance. Then, communicate your excitement about management team's strategy, and offer some specifics on how you plan to help make it happen.
Don't think that hiding in a corner will spare you a pink slip. Being invisible doesn't keep you out of the cross-hairs. On the contrary, it turns you into a name that can easily be crossed off from a list of employees to retain. Workers who don't step up to the plate and embrace the company's new power structure may automatically be considered "not a team player," and become first in line for a layoff.
Networking is always a key part of a successful career, but it becomes especially important when you job is vulnerable. The more relationships you cement inside and outside your company, the more likely it becomes that you'll have a job once the dust settles.
Of course, despite all your efforts there is just no guarantee that you'll be able to keep your current job. To avoid getting trapped in a long and difficult job search, you may need to develop a career "Plan B." Networking is the best way to find new, hidden job opportunities if you ever find yourself out of the loop – and out the door.
Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.