As companies try to decipher the economy’s mixed signals, the hiring picture has remained surprisingly buoyant. However, we are starting to see cracks in the armor with recent reports of a slowdown in August hiring. If we know anything, it's that change happens quickly. So how do you thrive in your role if unexpected surprises happen, and the labor market heads into a downturn? We can recession proof our career by taking daily actions that make us more valuable to our employer.
Commit to Life Long Learning
As we become entrenched in the daily activities of our job year after year, we can slide into auto pilot. Unfortunately, often times our skills don’t keep up with the needs of our industry or profession. Have you taken any online courses lately? There is a massive amount of free material to make us better at our jobs and enhance our skill set. In addition, consider getting a professional certification, advanced degree, or taking work related classes to set yourself apart from your peers. There are a multitude of ways to satisfy your intellectual curiosity while showing your employer you have value to add that will drive business and results. Your initiative will ultimately make you more marketable to the organization. Learning is a journey, and it is your responsibility to keep skills current and not become a relic.
Leave the Comfort Zone
Have you ever watched anyone perform the same job function for 20 years? Not only could that be stifling and boring, it won’t get you recognized by your employer. After all, its likely other people possess the same skills you do after all this time. Consider volunteering for special projects and teams as well as new initiatives and tasks. Stretch yourself to take on new workplace challenges. In addition, look around you for opportunities to drive business and innovate. Is there an area/department that is struggling, and could a new business idea help overall production and results? If you have a great recommendation for your company, produce the framework for that idea and create a workable model. Your boss will recognize the pioneer spirit, and you might even find yourself in a new role!
Understand and Improve Your Performance
Some companies are diligent about reviews and others are inconsistent at feedback. Do you think you are the top ranked performer? Your supervisor may think differently. We have all encountered peers who think they are doing a great job, but the company views them with a different lens. Request a formal review with your management if you have not had one. Ask for candid feedback, know your strengths/weaknesses, and understand how you can excel. How do you rank among others in your team? Asking for a ranking will crystallize your performance – the bottom 20% is not where you want to find yourself! Address problems now and implement actions to improve. Set a future follow up with your supervisor to track your progress and be open to constructive feedback. The most successful people in business are open to coaching and making changes in their approach.
Develop a Professional Network
Whether you want to stay at your current job forever or need to find a new role, have you fostered your professional network? We have all experienced a former coworker extend the “let’s stay in touch” platitude as they leave a company only to contact you years later when they need help. Take a sincere interest in your network of current and former colleagues and get together formally at professional events and informally at social events. Not only is it the right thing to do, it will pay dividends as we help each other navigate our career challenges. Even if you never need to find a new job, your network of associates can help you in your current role and vice versa. We all have different strengths and skills to leverage. It takes commitment, but make it a goal to stay connected to your network.
Improve Your Mindset
Attitude is everything. Do you consistently voice your displeasure at work? You may not even notice it, but other people do. Take stock of what you like about your job and focus on the positive. Remember that perfection is hard to capture and sustain. Think about how you can address a less than ideal situation instead of lament it. Set forth ideas and recommendations to target areas that need improvement vs. a complaint. Introduce these ideas to your boss in the spirit of problem solving. Have you ever noticed a worker(s) with an average performance and a great attitude? These individuals often thrive in an organization over more capable people with a less desirable disposition.
Nothing stays the same indefinitely especially in a post pandemic world. Economic downturns and external factors will always alter corporate America, and these events seem to be occurring at a faster pace. It is crucial to evaluate and adapt your approach to duties/responsibilities on a daily basis. The ability to pivot, absorb the shock of change, and innovate sets the average employee apart from the pack. Strive to differentiate yourself and use an ever-changing environment to develop your potential.