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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Surviving the Recession: Some Words of Wisdom

By Jerry Bernhart
Published in DM News, November 17, 2008

In my nearly 20 years as an executive recruiter in direct marketing, this is the third economic downturn that I've experienced. There was the recession of 1990-1991 when the country was reeling from the savings and loan debacle, there was the bust, and then the period following 9/11. Recessions are never pleasant, but the good news is that we have never had a recession that isn't temporary. This, too, shall pass.

In recent months, it seems I have been receiving as many calls and emails from people looking for reassurance as I have from people looking for a new job. So, permit me to remove my "recruiting" hat for a moment and replace it with my "career advisor" hat, which is a hat I am wearing often these days. No two recessions are ever alike, but my advice has never changed:

--This is not a good time to be actively looking for another job unless one of three
conditions exist: You are out of work, you fear that you may be about to lose your job, or you are planning to start your own business. The job markets are likely to get worse before we begin to see any improvement. The latest Bernhart Associates Direct Marketing Employment Survey bears that out. Only one-third of those companies responding plan to do any hiring the
rest of this year, and employers have little visibility when it comes to hiring plans for 2009. There is nothing wrong with keeping your ears to the tracks, as they say, and sometimes the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the hill. But in the current economy, much of the grass out there is getting mowed to the roots, and that grass may not be lush and
green again until sometime during the latter half of next year.
So for now, if you're gainfully employed, think a little less about dusting off your resume and think more about what's important to your company's business and the activities that bring in revenues. Align yourself as best you
can with the critical priorities of your employer. Rather than waiting around for another shoe to
drop, start going beyond expectations. Take on that extra project, put in some extra hours, produce better results, and expect nothing from it. Remember, when times get tough, companies need their best people more than ever. They will remember you for this.

--If you have been laid off, you are probably doing everything you can to leverage your contact network. Were there at least 25 people on your list who you contacted right away to help with your job search? The most difficult time to ramp up your network of contacts is when you need it most. You now have the time, so you have no excuse. Spend at minimum one hour each day up-dating, reconnecting and extending your network until you have a least 25 solid contacts. Also, tap into the online social networks. LinkedIn and Facebook are extremely valuable networking tools.

--Having a positive belief structure is essential if you want to succeed. It is vital is you want to succeed during times like these. Always remember that people tend to see what they believe, rather than believe what they see. Negative beliefs will cloud your outlook and impact your attitude.

--During a recession, people want to work with the best suppliers, the suppliers they can rely on, the suppliers who support them no matter what. Take the time to truly understand your client's needs and add value over and above anything they could have ever expected. If your competitors struggle that means more business for you, and it sets you up to take the pole position when things pick up.

--Heed the advice of Baba Amte, Ghandi-follower and renowned humanitarian who abandoned a life of privilege to help the outcasts of society in India. Baba said: "The future belongs to the common man, with uncommon determination".

Time for everyone to pursue a little bit of uncommon determination.

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