Keeping your Career Alive in an Economic Downturn

How do you keep your career alive and well in an economy experiencing tough times? How do you keep your job when people all about you are losing theirs?

These are not easy questions to answer – often the odds seem insurmountable – but whether you are between jobs or facing retrenchment, there are tactics you can employ to create change, value, and perhaps even a new direction that you may not have considered when you started out in your working life. One thing for sure, things rarely stay the same – and those companies and careerists who think the future will always play out on current status, are usually the ones who eventually downsize, retrench or wrap up altogether.

These are the times when you have to think out of the box – not only about where your current career discipline is headed, but what alternative options lie both within your company and the unpredictability of the market.

  • Ways to keep your career drive in top gear

Goals: Sometimes in a tough economy, goals have to shift. Don’t be too focused on one direction. Think laterally as to how you can use your qualifications and interests to better advantage. You may find that your financial qualification plus good people skills could find you a new position in marketing – or your computer expertise combined with a highly organised mind could see you moving into designing production systems. Stay alert, keyed and open to new opportunities.

Improvement opportunities: Improving the way things work either in your office, your team or customer relationships should be part of your everyday career drive in both good times and bad. You may think that extra effort in bad times is a waste of time – but this is precisely when you should put in that time to assist colleagues and go the extra mile for clients. Initiative and goodwill pay dividends when the economy turns around and your company and customers are aware of truly selfless contribution.

Take the challenge: Now is the time to step up to challenges, to take on new duties, learn a new skill, show yourself willing to change, adapt and master the art of personal growth through preparedness to engage with difficulty and constantly apply fresh thinking. Broaden your career options by stepping out of the comfort zone and consider taking on areas that will chiefly expand your knowledge. On-the-job knowledge will often outstrip a qualification.

Don’t talk about money: This can be the hard part – but in a downturn it makes no sense to expect every opportunity to come with reward. Look at the learning curve as the currency of success rather than simply what you could, or should, be earning. Career development can be intrinsic rather than flashy, gradually providing you with advantages while others waste time complaining about stagnation in their jobs.

Take time out: Working hard, keeping focus, and stepping up to the plate whenever you get the chance makes good sense. But ensure you take enough time to unwind and recharge. Your efforts can be tiring, even frustrating – not to mention the stressful effects of a poor economy on your company or business. So while you work to keep your motivation and engagement high, don’t forget that perfection often comes with the price-tag of burnout. You need to keep healthy to keep your wits about you.

  • The power of innovation

There is no better time to innovate than when things are not going as well as they should. An economic downturn gives you space to consider new ideas, a different approach, an inventive way to capture customers’ attention, and perhaps even contemplate diversification of your business. A downturn even gives you time to experiment with new ventures. They say necessity is the mother of invention – and history is full of stories of great businesses that started in bad times.

To be dynamic is to move nifty-footed through a field of new ideas, driving and motivating others to follow you on a path of discovery. But to innovate means to take old ideas, systems, engagements and remold them into new forms, methods and directions. A downturn is not the time to sit and wait it out – it is precisely the time to relook your career or your business. How can you put a new spin on it? How can you change it in a way that will position it to benefit from an upturn?

Above all, this is the time when you can talk to your customers – not only offering them top service by going above and beyond expectation – but also engaging them on what they like or dislike about your product or service, and if there is any way they would like to see something different. What is missing? What could be added? What can be changed… and how can you contribute to this? Sometimes the most valuable thing a downturn gives you is the time to refocus your energies.

  • The entrepreneurial spirit

Nothing motivates this mindset better than adversity. And you don’t have to be working in your own business to put the entrepreneur in you, to work. Any method you can dream up to improve profits or turn a company around to embrace change, is your entrepreneurial spirit at work. An entrepreneur understands what the market wants, sees opportunities and finds way to meet those needs in a fresh approach that will surprise and delight customers. To see the shadow of potential new avenues within the current, staid structure of business is the true talent of an entrepreneur – and your gift to a company that might be looking in all the wrong directions.

In a downturn, businesses need more than careerists seeking reward and position – but people who display vision in adversity and see the potential in problems.



Jun 19, 2017 | Vuk’uzenzele

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