THIS is the fourth recession I have been through over the past 27 years in business. It may be deeper, harder and more widespread than others, but definitely survivable.

Having survived the first recession and thriving through the last two, I believe that there are three ways to beat the downturn and boost your business or your career - A-B-C.

A is for A-grade

That is what you should get in your job appraisal or a reference from your former employers or clients.

If you are not an "A" employee, companies are happy to shed you as "added baggage".

Here's how to get an A:

* Don't wait to be told what to do. Be a self-starter and have initiative. If you are unemployed, this means finding a job should be your full-time job.

Contact at least 20 businesses a day via e-mail, phone and face-to-face. Show up groomed to perfection, with your shoes polished and fresh, crisp resum in hand.

Don't wait for companies to "get back to you" because many will not until it is time for them to send out rejection slips. Be proactive and call them back.

* Never be unemployed even if you are unemployed. If your project is slowing down, volunteer for other projects and get started on them before your current project ends.

Be so deeply enmeshed in the organisation they can't afford to let you go after your current project is done. It might not be at your pay grade or even the kind of work you want but it is a job.

Most HR people would rather hire a manager who's employed short-term by McDonalds than one who sat at home for two years doing nothing.

* Win awards and get certified. Most companies give out awards for best employee of the month, quality or customer service awards, cost savings initiatives and innovation.

B is for being visible

An old saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" is unfortunately true. Even if your job does not call for it, share your achieved targets and successes with bosses and team leaders.

When you or your team learn something that makes the job easier, don't brag about it, share it with everyone else and offer to teach them how to do it. This turns you into a highly visible and valued team player.

If you are unemployed, be visible by not only e-mailing your resum with a current picture of yourself, but also showing up in person. Bring a box of donuts or some curry puffs for tea. With a big smile, say: "These are my favourites, so I thought you might like some." In other words, stand out from the crowd.

In the movie, The Pursuit Of Happyness, which is based on a true story, actor Will Smith plays poor, down-on-his-luck salesman Chris Gardner, who is applying for an internship as a stock broker. He camps out at the decision-maker's doorstep and finally grabs his Rubik's Cube and solves it to get his attention.

Although that may not have really happened, the point is, it is that kind of determination that gets someone noticed and lands them the job - not sitting at home and waiting for someone to call.

C is for connections

You need to build your network. It is believed that you are never more than six degrees of separation from anyone on this planet. Who do you know who knows somebody you should know?

In Asia, more than in the Western world, it often comes down to who you know, more than what you know.

Who are your old army/ navy/air force buddies and what are they doing? Look up your old schoolmates in junior college, university or the polytechnic.

Find out who your current team members know inside and outside your company. Stay in touch and reconnect with old contacts and start making new contacts today.

For years as I travelled the globe, I sent out 50 to 100 postcards to people with whom I wanted to stay in touch.

Then I moved full-time to Singapore, got my permanent residence and stayed in touch with clients, prospects and friends with a weekly newsletter. In April, my Web partner and I are converting our new site to a blog as it is more interactive.

Keeping in contact and making connections is critical to anyone who wants to keep their job, get promoted or get a job.

If all of this sounds like too much work, well, be happy with where you are at and don't be surprised if you get a pink slip. It is rare for companies to let their "A" people go.

Those who are visible are usually promoted and those with multiple, high-level connections tend to have rock-solid careers and businesses.

Use these ABCs to keep and grow your career.