Think about this scenario: You've worked at a company for a long time, and truthfully, if you really admit it to yourself, you aren't as valuable a player as you'd like to be -- especially if you think the layoff wolf is prowling at the edge of the meadow. Maybe you've been distracted, or just a little too comfortable.

In today's Inquirer, I interviewed business writer Bob Calandra and management consultant Michael J. Kitson, two hockey pals who together wrote "How to Keep Your Job in a Tough Competitive Environment: 101 Strategies You Can Use Today."

One I'd like to focus on is Number 39: Get Back Into the Game. "How you became a legend in your own mind doesn't really matter now. It's time for you to start breathing in the air at sea level. Forget the notion about blaming anyone but yourself for the shortcomings in your career." The authors suggest that you begin with brutally frank self-assessment. Are you getting tapped for important assignment? What can you learn about yourself from projects that stalled or failed? How do your colleagues treat you? Is anyone asking you out for lunch?

Don't just focus on the negative. Look at what you've done well. When you've done this assessment, meet your manager with a plan for raising your game, the book advises. But here's a caution. Don't go into the manager apologizing for your past problems. That will just remind the manager, who probably is all too aware of your shortcomings. Instead, make sure what you propose is something that you can and will do.

There's even a script in the book: "I realize that these are challenging times for you and the department, and I want to help. Here are some things I've been thinking about doing to increase my contribution." The book predicts that the manager will appreciate that you are quietly acknowledging your sins and want to pull your weight.

Don't do it if you don't mean it! Everyone will be watching. You can't look like you are in it just for job security. It has to be a long term change.

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