With more than a third (36 per cent) of firms intending to shed staff over the next three months - the highest since 1991, when unemployment topped 10 per cent - it's time to recession-proof your job.

The Institute of Economic Research's latest survey shows the labour market continues to deteriorate rapidly. Thirty-six per cent expect lower staff levels over the next three months.

With ease of finding labour - skilled and unskilled - now hitting a 30-year high, the adage that no one is irreplaceable has never been truer.

Employment lawyer Ross Crotty of Lowndes Jordan says in an employers' market, "employees need to do anything they can to survive in the job, because the economic strain of being unemployed is just as unhealthy as being in a stressful job".

So the Herald on Sunday asked the experts for future-proofing strategies.

1 Benchmark and upskill: Understand your worth within your sector and its market, advises Jason Walker, managing director of Hays in New Zealand.

Record your achievements within the business and if you don't have any, plan to do something about it. Phil O'Reilly of Business New Zealand says: "Get a new skill - and tell your boss." The downturn is less likely to hit highly skilled employees.

2 Show passion: Employees who appear fully engaged will be in a better position if a restructure happens.

Take an interest in the company's position and contribute, says business coach Ben Ridler of The Results Group.

Go the extra mile for clients - and try to find new ones, even if this isn't your job. Julie Cressey of Madison recruitment also suggests finding out valuable information about your company's competitors.

3 Be busy: Look to take on more responsibility and create the perception of productivity. Jane Kennelly, director of Frog Recruitment, says perhaps your work/life balance should take a back seat as you concentrate on being indispensable.

Be a positive influence, not the productivity thief sending non-work related emails around the business.

4 Be the best at what you do: Get things done quickly, efficiently and with no complaints. Understand your employer's expectations and ensure they haven't changed.

Jarrod Moyle, manager of Sheffield Consulting's remuneration practice, says employees need to show why they deserve to stay during downsizing.

5 Be a cheerleader: Support your business' culture and change initiatives. Stay positive, says John Wall of performance development organisation Sugar International - don't get caught up with the doomsayers.

And be solution-focused, says Kate Billing, director of employment strategy consultancy Blacksmith.

6 Be flexible: Take opportunities to broaden or change your role. Diversify your skill set by offering to get involved in projects across the wider business. Get to know how to do more and different tasks around the workplace and help out, says Kennelly.

"We hear so often how employers value people who 'roll their sleeves up' and get on and do."

7 Be thrifty: Be mindful of costs and come up with some ways to save money in the business - and tell your boss about it, Wall says.

Start by cutting costs in your own areas of responsibility, such as photocopying and use of work mobile phones and cars, says Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

8 Be a leader: Take full responsibility for your role and the outcomes you need to produce. Offer ideas and show you're capable of going above and beyond.

Thompson says if you are doing something extra to help the business, make sure others know about it.

9 Be a team player - and a networker: Don't be the one caught in the corner whingeing.

Being a willing, cheerful team member speaks volumes, says Kennelly: "Having good relationships and being well-liked is a smart way to act." Build your profile with key stakeholders by networking across the business, and be proactive about managing your relationships outside the business, too, Billing says.

Network in your industry - it's important to know what's going on and what the trends are.

10 Celebrate success: Get testimonials from clients and ensure your boss sees them, says Wall.

When things get tough in the workplace, if someone else is doing well, be seen to support them. Get involved and participate in social occasions, says Ridler.

Keeping your job secure comes down to being fully committed to the business, Walker says.

"When conditions improve, you'll be well-positioned for better pay and faster career development." Don't get caught doing things that signal you're uninterested in the organisation, such as making long-distance phone calls from your work line, swiping stationery for personal use, or faking illness.

Ultimately, being made redundant is outside an employee's control, says Jo Harrison, partner at Kerridge and Partners recruitment, and it's important to be open to new opportunities.

If your current role is likely to go, John McGill, chairman of Strategic Pay, advises: "Get out there now, start looking, getting interviews and working on your future. No one else takes as much interest in you as you do."

Survival tips for stewers

Kate Billing of Blacksmith says there are three simple things you can do to manage stress if worrying about job security is getting on top of you:

Have a clear idea what your financial commitments are and have a plan to meet them.

Keep healthy by eating well, getting a little exercise and a lot of sleep.

If your company has an employee assistance programme provider, use them. This is exactly the situation they're there for.


TOUGH AT THE TOP

Spare a thought for the boss - Sheffield's latest chief executive remuneration survey shows signs pay levels won't continue increasing at the current median rate of 5.2 per cent in the coming year.

Sheffield reward manager Jarrod Moyle says: "Many organisations have imposed freezes on executive pay, and we predict a much smaller overall increase of around 2-3 per cent for 2009."

The survey shows the typical New Zealand chief executive:
* Is aged between 47 and 58.
* Is male.
* Has been in his/her position less than five years.
* Receives a total package worth $265,000 (salary, benefits and incentives).
* Earns a median base salary of $176,800.