9 Sure-Fire Job Security Strategies

You have a good job as an in-house or agency designer. And you’d like to keep it, thank you very much. Or maybe you want to compete for a new job within your organization. Or you have your eye on a different design gig altogether.

Join the crowd. Like professionals in many other fields, designers are looking for jobs in record numbers. To compete, you’ll need to polish more than your shoes, says Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group, a staffing company with offices nationwide that specializes in temporary placement of design, marketing and advertising professionals.

"Our employer surveys are showing that design positions are opening back up now," Turner says. "But it’s highly competitive out there." To stand out from the competition—or shine in the job you already have—look for ways to add to your value as an employee. Here are a few of the most effective ways to boost your Personal Value Quotient.

1. Add to Your Repertoire
The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to your employer. Mastering a range of software gives you a competitive edge, and honing less-common skills puts you another step ahead. Take Microsoft PowerPoint, for example. "We receive many requests for designers who can create sophisticated presentations using PowerPoint, [Macromedia] Flash and [Adobe] Photoshop," Turner says. "This skill set is somewhat uncommon because most designers don’t work in PowerPoint."

2. Polish Your Presentation Skills
In a recent survey of employers, The Creative Group found that 55% of responding advertising and marketing executives consider strong presentation skills the most important capability for a creative professional, other than creative talent. And given that new business is a key initiative for many companies right now, your presentation skills could be invaluable to your employer.

3. Increase Your Strategic IQ
Sure you’re a good designer, but what do you know about the business side of your company? Do you have an in-depth understanding of its mission and goals? Its financial challenges? Its competitors? And most important, how your role affects the company’s bottom line? Bone up by reading industry publications, attending professional events and asking intelligent questions. Showing that you understand the business side of things—not just the pretty pictures—will elevate your worth.

4. Be Your Own PR Agency
Often, the nondesigners you work with don’t understand what you do or design’s importance to the company. Therefore, they may not understand your worth. Set up meetings with department heads, or invite yourself to staff meetings to discuss potential partnerships and how design services could benefit them. Being proactive will raise your visibility within the company and earn you a reputation as someone willing to take initiative.

5. Develop a Reputation Outside the Company
Earning external validation is another way to gain respect and visibility inside your office. Take the time to enter competitions and participate in design organizations. Winning awards and taking leadership positions in your profession is fulfilling and boosts your credibility within the company.

6. Be a Problem-Solver
Are you the person your manager can count on to solve problems? It’s a strong position to be in and can cement your job security. Instead of just pointing out problems, take ownership of them. Present several workable solutions and recommend the best one. Offer to tackle challenging issues, and follow up to make sure they get resolved.

7. Look for Better Ways to Do Your Job
It goes without saying that, as a designer, you should keep abreast of the new tools and technologies available to help you do your job better. Stay up to date on new paper stocks, printing techniques and software by maintaining close relationships with printers and other vendors. Read a lot, and attend technology trade shows and seminars as often as possible. Being the expert on technical issues is a great way to increase your perceived value to the company.

8. Take on the Thankless Work
Everyone loves to take on the exciting, visible work. But what about those less enticing projects? If your manager can count on you to volunteer for the tough assignments (instead of having to cajole someone into doing it), you’ve just made his job a lot easier. "Most designers don’t want to do the company newsletter or the CEO’s presentation," Turner says. "But if you do it cheerfully and well, you’ll be remembered for it."

9. Have an Upbeat Attitude
The days of design divas are gone, and no one wants to grapple with your ego. "I have a client who tells me not to send [any job candidates] who haven’t been fired," Turner says. "They have a certain amount of humility and are realistic about what a design job requires." Besides, everyone loves to work with you if you have a positive attitude. A professional but sunny disposition will make you an even more valued team member.