WORKERS should stop, once in a while, to ask themselves: "Am I contributing more to the company than what it is paying me?"

Or are they among the thousands who are just coasting along, satisfied to be just "doing their jobs".

Workers who give value to the employer in excess of what it costs the firm to keep them on the payroll are unlikely to be retrenched, even during an economic downturn, says careers specialist Colin Koh.

What is more, if these workers take on added responsibilities and help provide solutions to their employers' business problems, they stand a good chance of being promoted.

Mr Koh cites the experience of an ITE graduate he had coached. "He was a technician but he was later promoted two levels up due to his continuing contribution to his organisation."

Use your knowledge

Individuals who can apply their knowledge are assets to their organisations, says Mr Koh, who is also chairman of the Singapore Professional Centre, a body representing several professional organisations in Singapore.

"Knowledge has no intrinsic value of its own - it is only relevant when it is used. The value of it is only real if you can use it to improve the way business is done," he says.

Workers must analyse their jobs and create ways to add value to it.

He suggests: "Look for people you can help. Look out for processes you can simplify or make more effective. There's always something more you can do.

"Your education, knowledge, skills and experience are all investments in your ability to contribute value for which you can be paid. No employer has any obligation to pay you for your skills and knowledge, unless he can use these to produce a product or a service that people are ready to buy today."

Embrace change

To be a valued employee, Mr Koh stresses that workers must take action to increase their "employability quotient".

He says: "To stay employable, individuals must have the ability to adapt to changes, constantly seeking continuing professional development and the application of new knowledge in the workplace."

As time marches on, workers need to keep their skills up-to-date or risk getting replaced. Fighting change may slow it down or divert it but will not stop it.

"If you wish to succeed in this rapidly changing world, you must embrace and accept change as a friend who presents you with an opportunity for growth and improvement," advises Mr Koh.

For motivation, he suggests reading Keith Harrell's "Attitude is Everything", which covers managing change.

Your next job

Career management is the individual's responsibility. Unfortunately, Mr Koh observes that many employees leave it to their employers.

His advice to workers is to prepare for their next job even if they are currently employed.

He says: "Every individual should be looking at which businesses and industries are growing and which ones are declining. To secure jobs that can increase their incomes, individuals must seek jobs that have a future, in industries that are expanding, not contracting."

After identifying the kind of work they want to be doing in the future, workers must then make plans to develop the knowledge and skills needed to do that job well. If necessary, they can engage the services of a career coach for guidance, says Mr Koh.

Workers who are driven and in tune with the goals of their employers - present or potential - will be desired by any company, even in these gloomy times.

He adds: "No company can be successful with a detached and unmotivated workforce. A company with highly charged and motivated workers who care for their firm's welfare will beat the competitor anytime."