How Not to Get Laid Off

By Ariane de Bonvoisin and John Kilcullen, BusinessWeek Online

What's triggering fears and sleepless nights for many of us about the unemployment abyss is not the job-loss stats themselves, but the depth of the cuts-and the qualifications of some of the people getting jettisoned. The questions we keep hearing are: Why do highly skilled, seemingly essential people get cut while others don't? Are there patterns? How can I make myself indispensable?

In talking with employers about what they most value in employees right now, it became clear that the key to surviving isn't so much about the skills you have, the awards you've won, or the tasks you perform day in and day out. It's as much about qualities, habits, and capacities.

This is no time to keep plugging along head down, half expecting every meeting invitation you open to be your exit interview. You must take action to embody the qualities of those employees who always get promoted and always avoid the next round of layoffs.

And don't think that just because your company isn't downsizing or has said it has no plans to that you're safe. Things can and do change fast in this environment, so take preventive measures. Plus, the kinds of qualities we're talking about will serve you well when things turn around.