06/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Career Couch: Pink Slip Prevention

By Stacey Radin and Karen Rosenthal

News flash: Don't wait until it's broken to fix it. Keep it well oiled, in pristine working condition to prevent being dumped. We're talking about your job -- the most precious commodity, next to your family.

The internal marketplace for retention is as intense as the external marketplace for jobs.

Talking to senior executives across the country, there is unanimity around one central conclusion: Excellence is the new norm. Mediocrity will no longer be tolerated. Average doesn't even enter into the equation

This is the first of a series of tips to prevent the pink slip. Read them. Heed them. Apply them immediately. This is your survival guide.
1. Expand your responsibilities - surprise superiors by being proactive.
• Identify organizational "vacuums" that are critical to business sustainability and growth and tell management that you want to work on those issues. Write a new job description and make an appointment with your boss to discuss it.

2. Acquire new and relevant skills and deploy them strategically
• Identify the areas of expertise the business requires going forward and determine whether you possess some of those skills. If you do, tell your boss that you want to work on relevant projects. If not, find a course to develop the relevant expertise.
• Look at your life and see where these two selves "work" and "life" can be combined.
• Be proactive versus reactive. Anticipating crises and developing preventative solutions are critical right now.
• Consider long term and short term goals.

3. Take the "working lunch" literally
• Use the lunch break to network and problem-solve with colleagues. Engage in productive business discussions, learning activities and the like. Volunteer to help a colleague solve a problem; the payback will be enormous. Multitasking and flexibility are prerequisites to thriving and surviving.
• Volunteer for a not for profit organization and build skills that will enhance your career. Volunteering is a great way to add or strengthen your talent portfolio. When you master a skill, transfer the learning to work.

4. Articulate your value to your boss by showcasing your accomplishments and gaining recognition
• Know your value proposition (what you are worth to the company)
• Increase your visibility to key stakeholders in the company. Decision makers need to clearly understand what you do, how you benefit the company and what would be difficult to replicate without you.
• Market yourself internally as someone who wants to learn and develop. This may mean participating in workshops or seminars offered by the company or finding your own learning opportunities. In either case, make sure others know you are taking the initiative to develop.

5. Take accountability
• Take ownership in retaining your position or advancing -do not wait for your boss or HR to identify your path for you
• If you do receive corrective feedback, accept it graciously as a gift and take action to change
• If you make a mistake, admit it, rectify it, make sure the new solution is more powerful than the error made

We will be regularly contributing tips, ideas and discussions to navigate readers through the career labyrinth. America is embarking on a new age -- "the career revolution". Just like any other cultural shift, the career revolution is a time for opportunity, but requires managing constantly moving pieces, being flexible in thinking and behavior, and resiliency. The career couch will be a place for you to refuel.

Stacey and Karen provide full and half-day programs for companies to develop practical approaches to employee innovation, cross divisional employee networks and high potential employee retention.

Karen Rosenthal, Founder and CEO of Retaining Human Capital, has been a career and leadership coach to executives for over 25 years. She has served in various capacities as a strategic business consultant, developing and implementing organizational development plans and conducting executive searches for Fortune 100 companies. Ms. Rosenthal has worked with hundreds of executives, building their unique brands over the years, enabling them to successfully differentiate themselves from their peers.