Recession Proofing

Times are tough. Food prices are skyrocketing. Gas is expected to hit $5 and some are projecting a barrel could topple $200. Companies are announcing layoffs and closings. Airlines are charging for every piece of luggage.  Ouch, ouch and more ouch.

So, do you stick your head in the sand, and hope it all clears when you come up for air? Do you just hang in there, hoping you survive? Do you join others proclaiming the “sky is falling and we are all doomed?” Or do you figure out some way to ride and rise above the brewing storm?

When times grow tough, it’s normal to focus on your career and financial security.

For those of you who subscribe to the Chicken Little theory—the sky is falling—it’s not surprising.  The stock market is the pits, the media is loaded with negative news, and bankruptcies and foreclosures are on the rise.

Don’t get sucked in.  Before you throw the towel in …

Look around.  What are others doing? Who do you know that is actually doing OK? Connect with them. There’s much to be said about hanging with winners vs. surrounding yourself with the depressed and spooked. Pick the positive’s brains—what’s working for them that might work for you?

What can you learn from you?  You are an adult… this isn’t the first economic downturn you’ve gone through. Recessions hiccupped in the seventies and eighties. Think.  What strategies did you use to survive those times?  What were your spending habits? What did you do to get through them? What did you tweak in your work life to survive—possibly thrive?

Get focused. Don’t waste your time and energy on something you can’t stop or influence—choose to put your time and energy into reviewing your career goals … is what you’re doing now on track for where you want to get to?

Denial is not your friend—granted, it’s a way to ignore shaky times, but it doesn’t help you. Sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich never works. Even in bumpy times, people get jobs, even promotions.  There’s always opportunities when bad news surfaces …

He who hesitates may be lost. Be ready to react if a door opens.

Stretch yourself.  Don’t do the same old, same old. When others are fearful and not wanting to do anything, don’t follow suit. Take 30 to 60 minutes everyday to reach out.  Network. Circulate. Look for collaborations—don’t pull back.

Keep learning. About your industry and your job.  Cycles cycle. You have to be ready when this one turns.

I was in New Jersey last week.  The Governor had recently announced the closure of several hospitals.  Rumors were running amok in the one that I was consulting with that they would be next on the shut down list. Will it? Who knows, but when the grapevine is lining up for the obituary, energy and productivity goes out the window. 

Whether that hospital (or your workplace) closes down or not, you shouldn’t just sit there.  A comparison to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic could be made. Your formula should include …

Find the vital signs. Even when companies are in trouble, there’s life in them—somewhere.   Seek out departments and co-workers that are successful.  Ask—what’s working for them?

Work forward, not backward. Sharpen your resume. What opportunities are out there, possibly with a competitor?

Take care of yourself.  Eat right. Exercise.  Don’t get caught up in the common stress diet—lack of sleep, lots of caffeine, booze, and too much food.  Instead, reach out, volunteer and do some work within the community … it’s amazing what you may pick up just by mingling with others.

To avoid becoming “history” in a recession, you’ve got to practice the art of recession-proofing.  This is the time to create contingency planning that includes the “what ifs.”  What if there’s a cutback at work; what if major contracts are lost; what if there’s a reduction in salary; what if, what if, what if.

This is the time to be visible. To absorb every nuance you can.  Yes, you should read the papers and view the news.  Stay current, but be open. This is the time to tap into your experience of coming through previous recessions.  Start with …

Tap into your intuitive survival skills. Use them to establish warning systems.  Animals have them, so do you.  What are the variables in your industry (or company) that might point to trouble?  Are orders down, up or flat?

In the seventies, I was a stock broker.  Every quarter, a client who worked in shipping for a Fortune 100 company would sell a few shares of stock.  I’d always ask him how things were going.  If he responded, “Slow,” I knew that earnings would most likely be down.  If he said that they were swamped, I knew that things were good. What a bell weather he was—an early warning system at my fingertips. 

The sooner you spot a negative trend, the sooner you can strategize how to deal with it. Broaden your skill base—guaranteed, many of the jobs and positions that will be available in just five years from now are most likely just a gleam in someone’s eye.  It’s time to get ready to be ready.