Seven keys to job security

Strategies to give your company -- and yourself -- an edge

Wondering how to prevent your job from being downsized, marginalized, or outsourced? There’s no magic formula, but these strategies will help make you more valuable. To put it in glossy-magazine terms, “Old and Busted” is routine work and technology that is not critical to business strategy. “The New Hotness” is the ability to manage a coherent set of business processes and services that contribute materially to the company’s efficiency or competitive edge.

Sharpen your business skills. As IT departments are increasingly relied on to deliver a substantial part of the business value of their organization, hiring managers are emphasizing business skills. Volunteer for tasks that put you in close contact with the business drivers of your company. Look for ways IT structure can be more closely mapped to what the company needs to accomplish. If you want to brush up on your skills, consider taking management-related courses in person or online (see “IT takes a page from business to get an edge").

Get closer to the customer. If a job requires frequent face time with U.S.-based clients and customers, go for it. Even highly tech-reliant companies depend on personal relationships to keep current customers happy and to attract new ones. According to Mark Lewis of EMC, the United States remains the largest consumer of IT products and services. Those customers don’t buy six-figure platforms or services over the phone; they buy based on the advice of smart, technical people whose judgment they trust. Become one of those people.

Diversify your management portfolio. Management skills will be needed on several fronts: vendors, contractors, outsourcers, employees — all in a distributed environment. Broad management experience across a variety of business relationships will prove to be a valuable asset in the years to come.

Align your job with the core. Jobs related to core business functions are more likely to stay put than those that can be easily farmed out to a third party. Technology activities that are tightly connected to corporate strategy are more highly prized — and so are the IT teams that run them.

Be a person of ideas. Projects that require creativity, insight, innovation, and thinking outside the box are more difficult to outsource. The same is true of jobs that require knowledge of process design and business analysis. Strive to become an “exception handler” to whom the company turns for nonroutine decisions.

Seek out complexity. The mantra among many industry analysts is “heads-down coders beware.” Large-scale system-integration projects, highly iterative development processes, and work that crosses multiple disciplines stand a better chance of remaining part of the home team. Beware, however, of taking leadership of a project doomed to failure.

Go vertical. Every industry has its particular set of IT challenges, requiring people who understand not only technology but also the special needs of the company’s niche. Seek out projects that will give you a deeper understanding of the sector your company occupies. Not only will that provide career insurance as your company grows, but what you learn can often be applied in interesting and novel ways, even if you choose to change industries later.