So your supervisor seems pretty smitten with that new junior hire at work, huh? They joined the team less than a month ago and already took your usual seat in meetings, finished those projects you were supposed to have done by now and even co-opted your Thursday evening happy hour sesh with the boss man.
Crap. It looks like they might just take your job.
We’ve all been in a situation like this, and the initial reaction is usually some combination of debilitating panic attacks and begging your boss to please never ever leave you alone in the gelatinous swamp known as job hunting. But you should really try with all your might to keep calm, since career strategist Daisy Swan says freaking out is the absolute worst thing you can do in this position.
“People make mistakes in situations like that when they allow themselves to be overrun by their insecurities,” Swan explains. “This is a time to remind yourself why you’re good at your job. Reinforce yourself by developing a strong network where you work and be sure that people know the value you’re bringing. That doesn’t mean you should do so in an insecure way — like by bragging to people — but be sure to let people know how you’re accomplishing what you’re accomplishing.”
Rather than trying to undermine the person who might steal your position, the best move, then, is to focus on vocalizing what you bring to the team. “It’s important to speak up,” Swan says. “I work with a lot of clients who realize they’re not comfortable — they might say they don’t like to toot their own horn or show off — but that’s a recipe for disaster. What you want to do — say, you have a one-on-one with a supervisor who you’re more comfortable with — is set up a check-in meeting and say, ‘Hey, I just wanted to update you on this project.’ Or send some emails so that you have a paper trail saying, ‘I wanted to loop you in on how things are going.’ Again, it’s not showing up and trying to be too loud, but there’s a balance.”
Sociologist Anna Akbari, author of Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, seconds this approach, except she recommends being proactive about it so that the new hire never has a chance against you. “Everyone should always be considering how they can grow and not become complacent in any particular role,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a misconception that working a nine-to-five salary position is more secure than being entrepreneurial — and certainly in some ways it is — but it’s also very easy to forget that you can be laid off or replaced at any moment in a rather unceremonious way.
“One of the keys to staying ahead of the curve is to constantly be expanding and improving your skill sets and proving your value above and beyond what your technical job description is — making yourself seem like an indispensable part of the team, so that even if someone were to come in and take your roll, your managers would say, ‘Maybe this person is a better fit for this role, but you’re such an indispensable member of our team, we could also see you moving into this position.’ That’s really key.”
But alas, let’s say you start speaking up more and working harder and the new guy is still showing you up at every opportunity. What are you supposed to do then? “It’s always smart to be looking around and keeping your options open,” Swan suggests. “One of the unfortunate things that can happen in a person’s career is that they can get a little complacent. They think, This is where I’m going to be forever, and they forget to take care of their network and keep themselves sharp for other opportunities. You might love what you’re doing, but nothing’s forever.”
Again, Akbari agrees. “You should always have your feelers out for other possibilities,” she says. “Your resume, your LinkedIn, your portfolio — those things always need to be up-to-date, because even if you’re staying in the position, you want to be in a place to be able to negotiate a better compensation package on your behalf, and nothing makes that more doable than having an offer from another company.”
So when you get the feeling that someone might steal your job, don’t be afraid to start scouting out other opportunities just in case. “We should always be upping our game in terms of skill set and network,” Swan emphasizes. “That’s your safety net.”
*scowls at new guy from across the office before Googling jobs in L.A.*