The employment situation today has workers feeling a little uneasy.
As the unemployment rate soared to 8.5 percent in March -- its highest rate since 1983 -- and the number of unemployed people increased to 13.2 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lucky people who are still employed are probably looking for a little job security.
Although nothing guarantees that your job is 100 percent secure, it doesn't hurt to implement "the little things" to increase your visibility and help you advance professionally.
Here are 11 simple, yet often overlooked, ways to advance your career in tough economic times:
1. Request the help of well-known professionals in your community
When she was starting out, Karen Fuqua, president of Fuqua Consulting Group, she wrote to the top 50 business women listed in Fortune magazine and asked if they would be willing to mentor a new professional; if not, did they have any advice?
"I had no idea what I would get back. The letters I received were fabulous," Fuqua recalls. "Top C-level women wrote back to me with encouragement, tips and advice as to what to do and not to do as a woman in business. It was easy to do and surprisingly effective."
2. Learn your work products
Try to get quality examples of the products your bosses are working on so that you know what quality output is, says Sean Ebner, regional vice president for Technisource, an IT recruiting and solutions company. When your boss gets sick or goes on vacation, volunteer to create the work product. This will help your boss and distinguish you above your peers.
3. Volunteer for the little things
Volunteer for a prominent role in community outreach activities, Ebner suggests. By doing so, you are more likely to get exposure to senior management.
Ebner gives the example of an old co-worker who had not done particularly well in college. His academics barred him from joining the firm as a consultant, so he joined the HR group in an administrative role.
"This gentleman gold plated everything that was asked of him and sought ways to help the office managing partner with personal items such as remembering birthdays and getting things for his wife," he says. "After about a year, this person was elevated to the consulting practice at a level higher than he would have entered directly from college. It was the relationships he had fostered and the focus on the little details of what he did that made the difference."
4. Stay on top of your industry
"Attend industry-related conferences or network with people in your industry online. Also, keep interacting with potential clients that aren't necessarily in your arena -- they may lead to a big sale in the future," says Kristen Fischer, author of "Ramen Noodles, Rent and Résumés." "You never know where a contact will take you."
5. Hone your public speaking and presentation skills
Most people hate any form of public speaking but it is one of the most potent publicity and marketing vehicles available to you, says Laurent Duperval, president of Duperval Consulting.
"Volunteer for any and every speaking opportunity that presents itself. You will be seen as a knowledgeable and competent individual," he says. "Since you are most likely the most visible person to boot, your name will be first on the list when promotion time comes around."
6. Be nice
It seems obvious, but in a marketplace where jobs are scarce and uncertainty is rampant, nerves get frayed easily, Duperval says.
"Step above the heap and be nice to people around you, especially when things go bad. In pressure situations, those who can keep their cool, their calm and still keep on smiling and laughing stand out," he says. "Those are the qualities you want in your leaders."
7. State your opinion even if it goes against the crowd
Be logical and strategic about stating your opinion. The idea is not to be against every idea or suggestion offered by other employees, Duperval says.
"If you feel strongly against an issue, learn to present and argue the facts compellingly. Doing so logically, while appealing to everyone's self-interest as well as the best interests of the company, is an uncommon skill, one that has tremendous value for any corporation."
8. Befriend your company's PR person
By getting quoted in articles or appearing on air as an "expert source," you are attracting attention to your firm and yourself, says Sammie Becker, CEO and founder of TigressPR.
"Volunteer to be speaker at a conference, an industry panel or even webinar," she says. "Something that your new best friend -- the public relations person -- can help you do or navigate."
9. Know the company
Study the company, the way it does business and its products, regardless of whether the information is relevant to your job or not, says Judi Perkins, a career coach.
"Know the trends in your industry and what your competitors are doing. For a VP, this is expected. For a customer service person, this sets you apart and marks you as someone to watch."
10. Notice other people's efforts
If your company has a newsletter, read it. Give kudos to people whether you know them or not, Perkins says. Don't forget to say thank you to those who offer their assistance to you in any way.
11. Get to know your boss, but don't curry favor
Know what the boss values in his staff. If he wants people to think through a problem before coming for help with a solution, don't go running to his office at the first hint of difficulty, Perkins says.
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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