No matter where you happen to be perched on the IT career tree, the branches are probably looking shaky right now. From chief information officers to IT admin staff, the days of taking continued employment for granted are over.
When it comes to job performance, the recession has ratcheted up levels of scrutiny tenfold. That means managers will be measured more closely then before on how their team is performing and will want rid of anyone who reflects badly on them. No matter how good your relationship is with your boss, they are unlikely to put friendship above their own continued existence in the company.
Simply doing your job isn't enough anymore - you have to make sure your boss knows how well you're doing it. Here are some ways to make sure your boss appreciates you - and hopefully to secure your job for a bit longer.
1. Make your boss look good
The secret to winning at chess is to think several moves ahead. The same strategy applies to career progression. Rather than focusing on ways to make themselves look good in front of their immediate boss, smart employees will seek out ways to help their manager look good to the people above them.
Laef Olson, chief information officer of hosted CRM company RightNow, says: "A former boss of mine once gave me some wise advice. She told me to always make sure that what I was doing was going to make her look good. In return, she promised to always give me the credit for what I accomplished."
As well as making your boss look good, anticipating their needs - basically being proactive - will make their job easier and should improve their appreciation of you.
Barry Hoffman, UK HR director at IT services company Computacenter, says: "Make yourself as indispensable as possible, by discovering what your boss needs before she knows she needs it. Know what drives her decisions, how she is being measured and what will get her praise from above."
2. Do more with less
IT budgets are obviously being squeezed at the moment so demonstrating understanding of the need to maximise resources is key.
Amrit Williams, chief technology officer at IT security specialist BigFix, says: "In terms of IT, upper management care about expenses, assets and labor, particularly during a recession. They need to improve the bottom line and they need to do it this year, not next year. Do more with less will be the motto, improve productivity and operational efficiencies will be the rallying cries."
But doing more with less doesn't only have to apply IT systems; it can also apply to salaries - even yours.
Alan Rommel, managing director at IT recruitment company Parity Resources, says: "Show that you appreciate the market conditions your employer is experiencing and be more open to flexibility in reward.
You could even offer your employer some flexibility in your rates or salary, or suggest a lower day rate with a bonus for completion or loyalty."
3. Be positive, proactive and professional
The ability to spot faults or problems is a valuable skill and can help avoid wasted budgets. But continually pointing out the negative isn't going to win anyone friends especially if the ideas being knocked happen to have been thought up by your boss. The smarter approach is to avoid pointing out holes until you have worked out how to fill them.
Computacenter's Hoffman says: "Avoid highlighting problems until you've first thought about possible solutions. This will give you plenty of opportunity to project a positive image of yourself, which will reflect well on your boss."
4. Talk the talk
Toiling like a martyr for hours even after everyone else has left for the day might feel like surpassing expectations but if your boss isn't there to see it, it could be wasted effort. Knowing how to present yourself and how to communicate to upper management is key when it comes to getting other people to value your contribution.
Torsten Muth, managing director of IT career site Experteer.co.uk, says: "While technical skills are still a must, the most valuable members of staff will learn to apply their communications skills to make sure their efforts are being recognized at all levels within an organizations."
And efforts to communicate effectively shouldn't be limited to the confines of the IT team. Being able to speak the same language as the wider businesses is always a valuable skill for technical staff - especially higher up the IT tree.
Adam Thilthorpe, director for Professionalism in IT at the British Computer Society (BCS), says: "Speak the language of the business so that you are able to effectively communicate the value of what you are doing, but avoid using jargon. Make sure you are seen as involved in activities that lead to revenue generation and understand the principle that, when times are tough for organizations, cash is king."
5. Get back to basics
It's all very well coming up with new and inventive ways to impress management but remembering the basics can go along way too.
"Turning up on time, working hard, meeting or beating deadlines and presenting yourself well is important," says Satnam Brar, managing director of specialist ERP recruiter Maximus IT. "It's also good to stay confident and upbeat. It may not seem like much but a smile can count for a lot and a positive attitude can really help to boost team morale. And in the tough times we're facing now, it's much needed!"
6. Don't be blue - be green
While some of the fluffier aspects of the green IT movement have been snuffed out by the cold fiscal reality of the downturn, there is significant crossover between environmental responsibility and economic efficiency. Saving carbon often goes hand in hand with saving cash. Showing your boss that you know how to do both is key when it comes to demonstrating your current value and your ability to help the business thrive when the economic recovery eventually emerges.
7. Stay informed
Knowing how to do your current role effectively might have been enough during good times but tough economic conditions are often a catalyst for disruptive technologies to emerge. Staying on top of the latest developments could not only help your organisation find new revenue streams and even anticipate changes in the market which threaten the company's very existence.
Andy Jenkinson, chief executive of services company Charterhouse IT Solutions, says: "First and foremost employees should stay informed with new technologies and industry trends to keep their skills and approach fresh. Identifying and taking advantage of opportunities that can enhance skills and develop expertise is a positive step."
8. Become a collaborator
Aside from simply communicating well, investigating techniques and technologies that can improve collaboration at all levels should not only improve the ability of the business to react quickly to change but also ensure the highest rungs of management have a view of those at the lower levels. Whether it's using instant messaging or monthly off-site meetings, taking the time to collaborate is vital to efficient running of any business.
9. Automate it
Part of IT's mandate is to come up with ways to make manual processes more efficient. Rather than introducing complexity into the organization and ruining yours and your boss's reputation in the process, smart IT staff should focus on ways to simplify processes.
"Your boss is going to be faced with trying to do more, or at the least the same, with less people. One of the most helpful thing you could do is demonstrate how many of the tasks we do manually today, such as security patch management of software, could be automated," says Michael Holton, general manager of services of IT services company Morse.
10. Be special
While being an all-rounder can have its benefits in terms of showing your flexibility and range of skills, don't forget to remind management what you do best. Being able to demonstrate exemplary skills in one area could help convince your boss that you're indispensable.
If your existing skills don't match up with the needs of the business then make sure you develop some news ones.
Nick Dettmar, managing director of IT recruitment specialist Computer People, says: "While generic 'IT skills' may still be enough for some roles, many employers are looking for staff that can demonstrate competencies in key growth areas, especially if it means they don't have to bring in new, additional or contract resources. So if you don't already have them, give thought to getting accreditations, qualifications or technical skills in high-demand areas."
This article was originally posted on silicon.com.