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How to Move Up When the Economy's Down

You should also look for opportunities outside your company. Companies often use an economic downturn as an opportunity to poach their competitor's talent. If you'd prefer to stick with your current firm, you can use potential opportunities elsewhere as a bargaining tool to gain a promotion or a raise.

"If you have skills or knowledge that is of high value in your industry, you can use this to your advantage," Brennan says.

Don't be afraid to ask for a raise: You deserve to be fairly compensated regardless of the economic conditions. During a recession you just need to be more sensitive when you ask. Acknowledge that times are tough and then explain carefully how the work you do will help the firm get through its challenges.

"Bring up that conversation right after you've landed a big deal or accomplished something very important for your organization," says Brennan.

If your firm can't afford to pay you more, consider alternative forms of compensation. You might ask for a more vacation time, stock options or something simple like an office with a view or a better computer. Companies are often more flexible about compensation when the economy is weak.

Get ready to look for a new job: There's always a chance you could be a victim of the next wave of layoffs. You'll be less anxious if you prepare for that possibility. Keep your resume updated and monitor career Web sites like Monster.com, run by Monster Worldwide (MWW) for job openings in your field. Try to maintain a good relationship with your bosses. You never know when you'll need a good reference.

Zack Anchors is a freelance writer from Portland, Maine.
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