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Weathering the Storm

There are a number of survival strategies you can adopt to help you endure the current economic cold front.


January 1, 2002  


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As funny as it may seem, the economy is sort of like the weather. Weathermen are not always correct in their predictions, and neither are economists.

In addition, if you look at the weather trends over a 10-year period, you will notice plenty of repeating patterns. The seasons repeat themselves year after year — with the occasional snowstorm, hurricane, and earthquake thrown in to complete the cycle. The economy is no different. Last year at this time, we were enjoying a very nice economic “summer”, and then suddenly, without warning, we were thrown into the dead of winter (translation: economic slowdown).

Unfortunately, we simply can’t just jump on a plane and “head south” for better economic conditions. (The economy is bad in Florida too). But there are some things that we can do to head off the economic winter doldrums.

THE THREE GROUPS

There are three groups of people in the working world:

1. Those who are working

2. Those who are not working

(not by choice)

3. Those who don’t have to work

Unless you are independently wealthy, you probably fall into one of the first two groups. If you belong to Group #1, you should consider yourself lucky. But what can you do to ensure that you stay there? Well for starters, don’t take anything for granted. The days of working for a company from the day you get out of school until the day you retire are now a thing of the past. Some people I know who have been through a layoff or two take the attitude that every job is like a temporary work assignment.

I think everyone in Group #1 should have a back-up plan. Like what? Well, for starters, make sure your resume up to date. The time to update your resume is when you really don’t have to. Make sure you keep it current and add any courses, new skills or other areas that might be of importance to a prospective employer. BICSI can offer numerous courses to keep your skills up to date and to help you learn more about new areas of expertise. Or if you have always wanted to do something different, look into night school and take a course or two. The more skills you have, and the more current you are, the more employable you will be.

IF THE WORST HAPPENS

If you have become an unwanted member of Group #2, your first priority is obviously to get back into Group #1.

If you have landed in the second group, you have likely ended up with some sort of “package” from your previous employer. Keep in mind that this package should only be something to hold you over until you find a new job. One of my friends got a “package” a few years ago and promptly went out and leased a Corvette. Nice car, really fast, totally impractical and it made me jealous — but didn’t help much when he was still unemployed eight months later. Eventually the ‘Vette’ went, he got a job and is now once again a respectable working corporate executive. Another friend of mine got a package, and within a month had a new job. Guess who can really afford a Corvette?

If you do get a package as part of a settlement, you should always talk to a financial planner and, if you feel it is not fair, a lawyer to get some legal advise. But remember: legal fees can add up quickly and potential gains can be simply re-routed to your lawyer (who probably drives a Corvette).

SURVIVING THE SLOWDOWN

What can you do to get back into Group #1 in the middle of an economic slowdown? As many jobs simply don’t get advertised, the most important thing to do is network, network, network. Keep in touch with previous co-workers, competitors, friends, neighbours and family – anyone who might be able to alert you to a potential opportunity.

This brings up a lesson for Group #1: You never know when you might end up in Group #2, so never burn bridges. Badmouthing your competition is one sure-fire way to turn off a customer and burn a bridge at the same time. You never know when you might end up working for the guy standing on the other side of the river.

Another thing you can do (if you are a member of either group) is to raise your profile in the industry. Get involved in committees, industry associations, advisory committees, write a magazine article, etc. Not only will you meet and network with others, but this can also turn out to be an invaluable source of “leads” for potential jobs. BICSI members seeking employment can check out the newly renovated “Job Board” on the association’s Web site. There is a section for “Job Seekers” as well as “Employers”. You can look at job listings, as well as post your resume for the entire world to see.

The buzz from the economic weathermen is that the cold front will start moving out by the time that you read this – just in time for a trip to sunny Orlando at the BICSI Winter Conference. I look forward to seeing you there.

Greg Porter, RCDD is Region 5 Director of BICSI and Business Development Manager for Tyco Electronics Canada Ltd., Markham, ON.


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