02/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Surviving the Recession: Three Creative Ways to Remain Employed in 2009

As we return from the holidays to our Dilbertesque cubicles and offices, many are being greeted with a stack of uncertainty piled high in their in-boxes. Has my employer cut deep enough? Is there a third round of layoffs to come? Or a fourth?

Here are some simple, creative strategies to hold onto a steady paycheck through the upcoming year.

1) Find your company's "micro-investment". In past recessions, many companies implemented deep, unilateral cuts across their entire organization. When the recession ended, many of these businesses found themselves short handed, or worse, having lost ground/share in the market for their most promising opportunities. This time around, numerous CEOs and senior executives have told me their strategy is to cut aggressively ahead of the curve (before they are really in trouble), but to also focus on "micro investments." They are picking specific areas or projects to maintain, or even increase investment. Steering your role toward these "micro-investment" areas of your company will increase your chances of remaining valuable.

2) Max out the last 20% of your effort. In most jobs, about 80% of your objectives are specifically spelled out for you - the price to play to keep your job. The issue is that more than 95% of employees consistently meet their basic objectives. Not a great statistic if you are trying to stand out in a dangerous recessionary round of musical chairs! Tangible differentiation in the workplace comes from the last 20% - what you accomplish beyond what your employer has asked you to do. In a market where "just doing your job well" is not good enough, it's how you add value creatively that helps you get noticed (and remain in the game).

3) Quit your job - keep your company. A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that nearly 1 in 5 workers plan to quit their job in 2009, and 60% of respondents say the economy and job market won't change their plans to change jobs. IT SHOULD! A deep recession significantly disrupts the risks and rewards related to career decisions, particularly if your plan is to switch employers. Companies often use a LIFO (last in, first out) strategy for hiring/firing, and with a new employer you wont have tenure. But perhaps more importantly, colleagues at your new company are likely to be fighting to keep their own jobs, and will not readily offer a safe landing environment when you arrive - nor one that will allow you to easily plant the seeds of long term success. If you feel stuck in a rut in your current job, certainly keep your eyes open. But if you must quit, look first to other positions within your current company. The residual value of your past accomplishments and existing relationships will provide a safety net not available with a new employer.