Helping Your Life Work
May 1, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 5

How to Survive a Recession

A couple of months ago, I received a call from a subscriber to this newsletter asking if I would be interested in participating in a panel discussion on "Steering Your Career Through a Recession" for a population that had never lived through one. She represented the Young Leaders Group, the under 35 wing of the Urban Land Institute, an organization that draws its membership from architects, urban planners, industrial and office realtors, developers, and property managers. I happily accepted and met some wonderfully bright, eager and articulate young people as well as some extremely knowledgeable, seasoned professionals in the real estate world.

Given the subject matter, I thought I would share some of my responses to a few of the questions here.

How do you manage your career in a recession?

1) Maintain your calm. There is no point in making yourself upset about what might be. A recent story in the New York Times (April 8, 2009) described how the uncertainty of the economy has been causing an upsurge in levels of stress, even amongst those who still held jobs, owned their homes and had money in the bank. The fear of losing it all was causing significant increases in new patients seeking counselling for depression and anxiety and in the incidence of panic attacks in individuals who had never experienced them before.

2) Maintain balance in your life. Exercise regularly, eat well, and remember to have fun. Being the first to arrive at work and the last to leave, working through lunches and being constantly busy is neither healthy, nor productive. If you are overly stressed, your work and personal life will suffer.

3) Use the economic crisis as an opportunity to rethink how you do things and what your priorities are. Become more productive rather than busy. Promote yourself or your business in new and creative ways. Think about what people need at this particular time and provide it to them.

4) Find a mentor who can help you develop and grow in your profession. Stay in touch with clients and colleagues.

5) If there is a possibility of termination, start preparing for it now. Seek the help of a career counsellor to lead you through a career assessment and the development of an action plan. Develop a list of accomplishments and include them when you update your resume. And network! Develop a list of resources, connections, associations, and colleagues to speak to about your situation. Join a breakfast club or start your own support group or volunteer for an industry-related association. If or when the time comes, you will be ready.

Should you consider taking extra classes/obtain professional credentials to differentiate yourself from others?

In most jobs, there is a need for continuous learning and upgrading as a response to industry, technological or global changes. Keep up with trends and changes by reading association publications, attending seminars and workshops and paying attention to what is happening around you.

If you are considering post-graduate work, try to make as an informed decision as you can. Will it fulfill your needs or goals or are you pursuing it with the hope that this will guarantee your job? Recognize that obtaining an MBA is a big commitment that comes with no guarantees.

How do I protect my job in the current market? How do I make myself more indispensable?

Demonstrate your resilience and adaptability to changing economic conditions. Survival of the fittest is based neither on the strongest nor the most intelligent, but on "the one most responsive to change" (Darwin). Those with the highest Emotional Intelligence (Bar-On Model of Social and Emotional Intelligence) are those who are good at adapting to change, managing stress, maintaining a positive attitude and have a good understanding of themselves and others.

Demonstrate your creative thinking and problem solving. Richard Florida, Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, has written that there is an emerging Creative Class "whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content." This includes scientists, engineers, architects, designers, teachers, artists, musicians, entertainers as well as creative professionals in business, finance, law, health care and related fields. They "engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital." They value "creativity, individuality, difference and merit" and they understand that "every manifestation of creativity – technological, cultural and economic – is interlinked and inseparable."

If you are feeling worried or stressed about your current situation, please call. I'll be happy to help you navigate the waters through these difficult times.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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