Career Management in a “Down” Economy

Some people used to say that if you were having a tough time finding a new job in a down economy, you just needed to hang on and keep plugging away, because eventually the cycle would shift and things would get better. I’m generally an optimist, but there are some problems with that philosophy. I’ll bet you could name some, but here is my short list.

Don’t Let the Economy Manage Your Career

  1. If your career management consists of letting economic conditions govern your actions, it’s both limited and short-sighted. You will inevitably be dragged down every time the cycle is on a downward slope.
  2. Basically waiting for something better to come your way doesn’t generate positive energy and too often leaves you standing at the station when the train pulls out. The saying, “Good things come to those who wait” refers to having patience when patience is important, not to a passive, doormat attitude.
  3. Previous economic trends (historical records, etc.) don’t necessarily predict the future. A case in point is a Wall Street Journal article that talks about the current economic “recovery,” which stubbornly refuses to follow past trends and belies the more optimistic view that is being publicized by government and media resources.
    (July 15, 2013, “A Jobless Recovery is a Phony Recovery” by Mort Zuckerman)

Smart Career Management in a “Down” Economy

So what should you do? I believe it’s critical to avoid focusing so much on what the economy is doing or likely to do that you risk missing signs and opportunities you might be able to capitalize on. Yes, you should stay up on what’s going on and what might be coming that could affect you and your career. However, that’s hugely different from obsessing about the situation–particularly the elements you have little or no control over. The former is savvy career management; the latter is–to put it as politely as possible–inadvertent career sabotage.

Every element of your career management and job search planning needs to focus on key points, which means, among other things, that you should:

  • Maintain and preferably increase your professional value to employers. When you stop learning and growing (no matter what level you have reached), the only thing you position yourself for is stagnation.
  • Periodically evaluate your spending and saving habits to ensure wise financial commitments. You need to be able to adjust, revise, regroup if the situation unexpectedly takes a turn for the worse.
  • Establish and nourish a healthy professional network continually–not just when you think you’re going to need it. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and neither is a strong network.
  • Strive for a balance in your non-work life that can help you keep a good perspective and make you a more well-rounded individual. Your mental and physical health will benefit, and this tends to spill over into your work as well.
  • Savor the moment when things are going well, but remember to plan for the future–as challenging as that uncertain outlook might be.

Career management isn’t a band-aid that can be slapped on a problem and cure it by making it invisible. However, when you do it right, you can significantly improve your prospects, even in a “down” economy.

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