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Get ready to improve and get ready to move

There is no job security

There is no such thing as job security, even in a robust economy. No employer has an obligation to keep any employee. People get fired—and legally so—for no other reason than that their bosses don’t like them. Couple that with the struggling economy, and the word is be prepared. Work toward keeping the current job, and at the same time, keep a Plan B always ready.

Keep tabs on job safety

The first thing an administrator needs to do is stay aware of the safety level of the job. The big danger signs are serious financial difficulties such as the loss of a major client or the exit of a rainmaker. But there are also the potential danger signs of rumors and innuendos—the closed-door meetings, a change in the attitude of the partners, a difference in the way they interact with the associates and staff. Don’t spend time worrying. Ask outright what’s going on. Meet with the one or two partners who are easiest to talk with and say:

I see the partners in a lot of closed-door meetings, and I’m concerned that something negative is going on that could affect my job. I would appreciate it if you would level with me. Are we going to have cuts? Should I start looking for another job? Could you give me some advice on what direction to take?

Beware of responses such as “these discussions are private” or “nothing has been decided” or “what are you seeing that gives you that indication?” If no ax is falling, there’s no reason the partners can’t give assurance that the job is safe. People jump to negative conclusions. They see a valid firing and assume layoffs; they see a closed door meeting and assume the firm is folding. Get those fears out of the way. Losing sleep over suppositions invariably harms performance. Anybody who responds that way should not expect to move up in an organization.

Get to be more valuable

Even if the job is 100% safe, however, don’t get comfortable. A bad economy is the time to get valuable. Stretch the boundaries of the job. Go beyond the job description and identify things that are not being done or not being done well and get in a position to fix them. Nothing makes an administrator more valuable. Don’t reject anything for being “not my job.” Look at each aspect of the operations and ask “is there a better way to do this?” Research it, and bring it to the partners as “this is what I’ve observed, and here’s what I propose to do. May I have your permission to do this?”

If there’s a billing system that can reduce the turnaround time from 60 days to 30 days, get it. If the partners are facing a management issue, Google it and bring them examples of how it’s been handled both poorly and well, along with suggestions for resolving it.

If there’s something that requires training, get the training.

Be proactive. Bring them news stories relevant to the industries they serve and present the information as “this might have an effect on our practice area.”

Preparedness calls for joining and being involved in trade associations. Besides the networking they provide, associations keep their members updated on the industry and on the job market. And membership looks good on a resume, because it’s evidence that the applicant isn’t just looking for a paycheck but is growing in the profession. There is an association for everything and it’s possible to qualify for membership in several, perhaps one for legal managers and another or accounting or human resources.

Be on the alert for changes that could affect the job and always ready to act before action is necessary. The better the preparation, the less time it takes to stabilize in a new position.

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