Are You Ready for the Next Recession? Here are 10 Tips to Prepare Your Career to Better Navigate Life’s Ups and Downs.

By Stephen Dupont, APR

The U.S. economy continues to expand. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, we are currently in the third longest economic expansion since World War II.

However, if you’ve been around long enough, you know that a recession will likely happen sometime in the future. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And while the stock market is not the economy, one can’t help but wonder what the future may hold after the enormous losses experienced by the stock markets in 2018. So when a recession does happen, you will want to be in the strongest possible position — not just to survive, but to thrive in it.

Whether a recession occurs within 18 months or five years, you should be always be looking for ways to reduce your exposure to negative events, for example, the loss of a major customer, the restructuring of your organization in response to changing market conditions, a merger or acquisition — any of which could occur even during the best of times.

For that matter, if you’re working in a job you don’t like, or for a boss you can’t stand, don’t wait until he goes or he finds a reason to cut you. Life is too short to spend another minute doing something you hate or working for someone who doesn’t value you and your contributions.

By acting now to enhance your personal brand and make smarter lifestyle choices, you can increase the likelihood that you will withstand whatever life throws at you, including the next downturn in the economy. Here are ten tips to take now to prepare for the ups and downs of our roller-coaster economy.

1.) Assess risk tolerance – As we get older, we often take on more risks while at the same time desiring shelter from that risk. For example, as we take on the risk of a mortgage for a home, we seek a good-paying job with a reputable company versus a company that is less well known or less financially stable to ensure that we can pay our mortgage. Ask yourself these questions: What’s the worst thing that would happen if I were to lose my job today? What would happen if I were seriously injured and could not work for several weeks or months? Is the organization I work for financially sound? What if our agency lost its biggest account? What if I were offered a dream job, but it meant moving to the other side of the country? Think about how you’d answer these and similar questions to better understand what the amount of risk and the types of career risks that you would be comfortable with, and not.

2.) Seek to Become Indispensable – Your reputation as someone who gets results (while maintaining your integrity) is the key to remaining gainfully employed or in demand by customers throughout your career. It’s that sort of a reputation that results in word-of-mouth buzz that keeps an employee in high demand at his or her current job, and the sought-after target of executive recruiters. Regardless of whether you’re happy where you work now, always focus on quality and generating results. But, in that same vein, don’t overlook opportunities to market your success or allow others to market your successes for you.

3.) Ask Yourself Some Hard Questions – The time to really examine your career life is now. And that starts by asking some really tough questions, such as: Why do I do what I do? I’m 50; what do I want to do with the last 15 to 20 years of my career? How can I have more of an impact on the world? What’s on my bucket list? When you have a clear, intimate understanding of what you really value, what makes you tick, and what you’re passionate about, it makes career decisions a lot easier. Take a day or two off and find a place where you can spend some time to think deeply about you. Complement this time with talking with trusted peers and mentors, or even hiring a career coach. Ask the hard questions today to give you the clarity you need for tomorrow.

Now is the time to ask yourself some really hard questions, such as “Why do you do what you do?” and “What am I being called to do with my life?”

4.) Update your LinkedIn Profile – I know, this is such an obvious suggestion. But the truth is, most people don’t update their profiles until they are forced to look for a new job. The reason you should update your profile now is to attract more great opportunities, and the attention of executive recruiters and potential employers — when you’re not actively looking. Use keywords that headhunters use to search for new talent in your industry and revise your profile to emphasize tangible results that you’ve delivered for your clients or organization. Tell a story about why you’re indispensable. And, don’t forget to put a professional photo of yourself on your LinkedIn page!

5.) Seek New Experiences – Regardless of economic conditions, potential employers and clients are always interested in hiring smart people with experience in a specific areas. Are there opportunities with your current employer that would allow you to expand the range of experiences that you could offer a future employer or client? Such experiences might include launching a new product or service, conducting a major event, overhauling your company’s brand, leading a major promotion, or working with a client in an industry with which you have little or no previous exposure.

6.) Invest in New Skills – Every year, you should set a goal of acquiring a new skill (or deepening a skill at which you are particularly strong) that will enhance your overall value to your current or future employer or clients. Want to become more proficient at pay-per-click? Then attend a class and learn it. Want to become better at content marketing? Attend a content marketing conference and gather insights from other professionals and companies. Want to work in senior management someday? Then enroll in an MBA program. If your employer won’t pay for you to learn new skills, then set aside a portion of your personal budget to invest in yourself.

Don’t wait until the recession hits to beef up your networking. Do it now. And do it regularly.

7.) Accelerate Your Networking – When is the worst time to ask for a networking coffee? The day after you’ve been laid off. Even if you’re in a job that you absolutely love, you should make it a regular habit of meeting with peers and people of influence within and outside of your industry. If you hate inviting someone out to lunch or coffee, do this: join a professional organization such as PRSA and get involved in a committee. Or, go to a MeetUp to learn about a topic, such as content marketing, where you might meet others with your same interest. Or, attend a workshop, seminar or industry conference. In this process, don’t forget to maintain relationships with old acquaintances, and look for opportunities to help others.

8.) Lower Your Living Expenses and Debt — Now is the time to lower your monthly expenses, pay down your debt and build up a war chest of cash savings. The real reason people fear a career crash is because they worry about paying the mortgage on their home, paying off their credit cards, keeping up their monthly smartphone payments or paying their car loans. If you take away that fear, you will be in a much better position to weather a downturn, avoid taking the first job that comes along, or take advantage of the unexpected opportunity.

9.) Take Care of Your Body – We live in a society that values both intellectual and physical vitality. People who eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and know how to reduce their stress levels are, generally speaking, people who are more vibrant and ready to contribute solutions. It shows in their both their thinking and their mental attitude. Don’t take this lightly. Investing in your physical well being is an investment in your career that can help thwart the ageism bias that we all will eventually face.

10.) Take Care of Your People – If you own a firm or run a department, invest in your skills in becoming a better manager and a curator of talent. Sure employees leave for money and a better title, but they most often leave because they don’t feel appreciated, valued and recognized for their contributions, which are all within a manager’s ability to influence. Paying attention to the well being of your employees will pay dividends, both in the short term, and when times get tough.

Did you find this article of value? For more articles by Stephen Dupont, APR, visit his blog at www.stephendupont.co.

Stephen Dupont, APR, is VP of Public Relations and Branded Content for Pocket Hercules (www.pockethercules.com), a creative branding powerhouse based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen Dupont at stephen.dupont@pockethercules.com or visit his LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/in/stephendupont or follow him on Twitter at Stephen Dupont.

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