As rising unemployment makes headlines nationwide, job security is on the minds of many young professionals.

Making matters worse, this is our generation's first major economic downturn, and we don't have the history that older generations who have weathered these storms before have to put it in perspective. Instead, we forward the stories of our friends who were fired through a generic e-mail or who learned that their employer was going out of business while watching late-night TV. All this leads young professionals to wonder how they can improve their job security.

Let's start with the big picture. I've learned through my experience consulting with corporate executives that they generally view young professionals favorably as employees in a challenging economy. Executives often see young professionals as being outcome-driven, comfortable with technology, and tending to embrace change. Even more important, young professionals are at the beginning of their careers, which means they are usually among the lowest paid employee groups at a company. This is a huge economic incentive for companies that are being forced to reduce overhead to keep you on their payroll.

While the big picture might not give you all the comfort you seek, there are ways that you can directly increase your job security.

You can try to build a stronger network within your company, because people get creative to keep from firing a friend. You can quantify how much money you make for the company, so you can show you have a positive effect on the bottom line. (If you come up with a negative number, keep it to yourself!) My personal belief is that you should continually strive to increase your value to the company.

One straightforward way to highlight the talent you deliver is to get in front of your company's decision-makers and make them your audience. Here are four ways you can speak up to stand out in a challenging economy:

  1. Find a reason to make a presentation

    You can do this by taking on a project that culminates in a presentation or joining a team that gives presentations regularly. You can even sign up for outside training with the caveat you will have to share what you learned within the company.

  2. Prep for the speech as if it were an interview for your dream job

    The three things you must know ahead of time: your major points (never more than three if you can help it); who will be in the audience and their reasons for being there (besides the obvious “leave your office” motive); and how you will deliver your message for it to be most actionable. (Drink a Red Bull beforehand!)

  3. Practice the speech at least twice

    This is where most young professionals fall short. They read their notes over and over, go through their PowerPoint until their thumb is numb, and redo the margins on their handout five times, but they don't actually talk through their speech. Practicing your speech out loud allows you to hear if it flows well, makes you more familiar with the material, and shows you how to pace yourself correctly. I suggest practicing once without an audience and once with a friend — even if you do it by phone.

  4. Give your speech as you rehearsed it

    Arrive early, check any equipment you plan to use, and have water at the ready. Afterwards bask in the glow of the compliments you receive. And take the rest of the workday off to celebrate. We are young professionals, after all!

Jason Ryan Dorsey is The Gen Y Guy. His keynotes and seminars teach business leaders how to build Gen Y employee loyalty and performance while bridging four generations in the workplace. Jason has appeared on “60 Minutes,” “20/20,” “The Today Show,” and “The View.” His new book is entitled My Reality Check Bounced!

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