If You Applied Today, Would Your Boss Hire You?

Last Updated Apr 9, 2010 8:59 AM EDT

Imagine this hypothetical scenario: thanks to a restructuring, your company will require you to reapply for your current job. Anyone else, inside or outside the organization, can also apply. Would you be rehired? According to John Daly, an interpersonal communications expert and professor at University of Texas McCombs School of Business, many executives are well aware that they would not get their job back -- and could even write down the specific reasons why not.

That ought to be a wake up call. While there may not be an actual restructuring under way at your company, the economy is forcing employers to make sure they've got the best possible staff. If you're not indispensable, well, you're dispensable. Daly shares seven ways you can boost your chances of getting into the former category:

  1. Tackle Your Firm's "Must-Win" Issues. Typically, this means being positioned to make money for the company -- having profit and loss responsibility.
  2. Avoid Focusing on Zombie Products. "Zombie products are dead, but they don't know it," says Daly. One example: the desktop computer. People may use them now, but they have no future.
  3. Offer Valuable, Yet Scarce, Resources. If you're a Kazakh speaker working for an oil company in Houston, chances are you've got it made. The combo of 'rare' plus 'useful' (Kazakhstan boasts plentiful oil reserves) seals the deal.
  4. Dress to Be Invited. Take a look in the mirror. Could your boss bring you along to an impromptu client meeting? To answer yes, dress one degree better than your peers. For example, wear khakis, not jeans. But dressing up has its limits. "You don't want to be the guy in the tie," Daly says.
  5. Shun Long-Term Projects. "Never sign on to a five- or ten-year project," Daly says. "Even if you do a great job, no one will remember how bad things were five or ten years ago." If you get stuck with one, come up with quick wins along the way -- and be sure people know about them.
  6. View Your Office as a Stage. Be sure it portrays what you want to communicate. Daly describes a Wall Street executive who did it right. Her office bookshelves displayed "deal tombstones" -- indicating that she had closed billions of dollars worth of deals -- plus family photographs. The message? "I get things done, and I have a life." What not to hang on your wall: a photo of a golf course. "That says 'I'd rather be playing golf,'" says Daly.
  7. Know Your Market Value. Meet with a headhunter every six months and regularly apply for jobs -- even if you think you're not looking. If you've worked for one company for 15 years and remain insulated, you have no idea whether your skills are valued elsewhere.
Interview image courtesy of Flickr user Alex France, CC 2.0