Work is supposed to be something very straightforward. It was made complicated by inefficiency. Dilbert comics often highlighted not just bosses who are not exactly too smart, giving unneccessary work, but also highlighted common sense that does not appear to be too common.
Working hard is the easy way out for most workers. Just blindly follow instructions robotically is hassle-free. Doing things the same old way is the proven method to be the submissive worker that does not give problems.
Unfortunately, being contented will more often than not, make you blend with the crowd. And when your salary (and age) doesn't justify your USP (unique selling point), you will be shivering when news of retrenchment comes in.
Make yourself stand out from the crowd, in the right way. It could be a technical capability that make you indispensible (though seriously, no one is indispensible). Or if you have no core technical skills, then work on your soft skills.
Communicating, presenting, negotiating, sales, networking etc... are all soft skills that we all can work on, skills that apply to both work and life.
Create a monopoly for yourself in the company. Hold the company to emotional blackmail to your services, make your presence felt. Make them feel that without your presence, life will not go on as easy as before.
Work closely with the 3 core group of people - the bosses, the peers, and the subordinates. Mainataining a good relationship with these 3 groups of people will stand you in good stead. And it will also make you get respect and have easier days at work.
Sinisterly speaking, the workplace is a place where people make use of each other to finish their own selfish tasks. However, it does not mean that you should treat your colleagues like stepping stone. Doing that will throw your reputation down the drain, you will die hard hard and live miserably.
Be humble, be humanitarian, be cooperative, so that both of you help each other to co-exist, while working your way up the corparate ladder. Well, even if you lose your job, you don't end up with nothing. After all, a person's net worth is determined by the size of his network.
My sifu lost his job, but ended up starting his own business with the help of his ex-colleagues. And now he's managing a few companies.
Leverage on your past experience to create an impact for the company. Be hungry, be very curious, and never forget to be grateful. Be partial in your decision-making to everyone you meet. There are many ways to impress people without having to suck up, or vie for the best actor award.
Work is never hard, it is people who make things complicated.
Don't be a caged lion in a cage. Go fight for your own food. Go mark your own territory.