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How to Move Up When the Economy's Down

Offices are hotbeds of stress when the economy is weak. Layoffs are a constant threat, businesses are slashing expenses and the future is murky.

Here are some ways to prevent your workplace from becoming a source of dread. If you play your cards right, the recession might work to your advantage.

Brace for change: The economy will force companies to adjust their budgets and strategies. Your workload could increase, new goals could be set, benefits could be cut and jobs might be lost. Your boss will be looking for employees who can adapt, and they will notice people who resist change. If you're assigned new tasks, look at it as an opportunity to prove yourself rather than as a new burden. Make it clear that you're willing to be flexible.

Make yourself indispensable: You need to convince your boss and colleagues that you're an essential member of the team. You'll have to work harder, faster and more efficiently, says E. James Brennan, senior associate at ERI Economic Research Institute, which tracks worker compensation and human resource issues.

He says workers should try to offer solutions and new ideas that can lower costs. Attempting to prove your value might make your job more challenging, but the effort is likely pay off in the long run.

"If you're suddenly being overworked, it probably means you're more essential than ever," Brennan says. "If you're not doing much work, I'd start to worry."

Search for opportunities: A tumultuous time could provide the perfect opportunity to advance your career. Look for open positions within your firm, and build relationships with people in other parts of the company. Let your boss know that you'd like to be promoted, and earn his or her support.

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