Sunday, February 17, 2008

Recession Proof Your Career

Many people are witting lately about the state of the U.S. and world economies in newspapers, magazines, blogs and other media. There is much talk of a looming recession, and people are beginning to worry about the future. Companies are laying off workers, the mortgage melt-down is causing more real estate woes, and savings accounts are low (if not empty).

What can one do to recession proof their career? Is there something that can give people a safety net when times go haywire?

I believe that having a strong network of personal and professional contacts is an important part of securing your future. Establishing a good reputation with a wide cast of people is the key to uncertain times.

If you are known to be good at what you do, others will have the knowledge to send opportunities your direction. If you show up on their doorstep after you have lost your job, they do not have the background information necessary to become your advocate.

Greg Garrison, president of The Startup Staffing Group, a vcfo company, says that "networking is how you are going to find the best job the quickest." A staffing and recruiting industry guru, Garrison adds, "The more people who know you, the better your chances of being employed. The first place the a recruiter or hiring manager goes is to those they know".

Think about this for a moment - if you currently do not believe in networking or claim to not have enough time to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with those you meet in the business world, are you short changing your own future? You MUST network to ensure you have options if you experience a reversal of fortune.

I talk to people all the time who are out of work who did not believe that networking was important. When they see all the available jobs being given to those with connections they change their tune, but by this point it is too late.

A few years ago I was asked to have coffee with a woman who was "trying" to network. She had worked for a major computer manufacturer (okay, it was Dell) and had been laid off after five years. She had relocated to Austin for the job, and during her time with Dell had never made any other business connections in Central Texas. She had no network, but she did have a million excuses as to why networking had not mattered in her previous job:

1. She had a steady job with a Fortune 500 company.

2. Her territory was not Texas, so she did not focus on meeting people locally.

3. She had been too busy doing her job to network.

4. Her bosses did not care if she had a network.

5. She was not very social and did not like going to business events.

6. She believed people you meet networking are just out to help themselves.

7. She had a college degree from an Ivy League school and thought that was enough.

8. She traveled a lot for work, so was never in town to make connections.

And the list went on. I don't know what ever happened to her, but she was out of work for nearly a year. She had assumed that because I had a network, I could help her, but there was nothing I could do for her. I know for sure that not one of her excuses helped her find a new career, but if she had a real network of contacts, somebody she had invested time to get to know (in advance of needing them) might have been the link to a great job.

If you want to recession proof your career, then you must dedicate a portion of your time make, grow and keep business relationships.

Have A Great Day.


**In full disclosure, the person I quote above, Greg Garrison, is a friend and co-worker.


william uranga said...

Thom - I would also add that one should be looking beyond their own role. For example. In recruiting, most have a have-an-opening-go-fill-it mindset. Why not expand your personal offering to the company/client to also include workforce planning on one side or on-boarding/orientation/new employee engagement on the other. ** It's great to have more contacts and association - but don't forget to increase the value of what you offer. ** Cheers - William, Santa Clara, California

Unknown said...

Wow, Thom, great post! You really captured that she didn't have the right mindset so therefore finding a job was going to be tough for her period. And, her expecting you to fill in the blank when she hasn't provided anyone an opportunity to sample her character and competence. Networking is not about "hunting" as you know. It is so about "farming" and it takes time to farm, cultivate and nurture - but the rewards you reap are exponential!
Great post!! I plan on referring to it quite a bit when I refer to "how not to network".
Maria Elena Duron

Craig Weeks said...

Thom, let me combine this article with "Tip #66" and tell a true story.

Several months ago a guy I had worked with a number of years ago (Mark) and exchanged a few emails with over the past couple of years contacted me. He wondered if I could provide any information about my employer to a new contact of his (Dave). I agreed. Dave asked if we could meet for coffee for a few minutes so he could pick my brain. I agreed to do so because I understand the basic tenet that networking should never be all about me. I had no reason to believe I had anything to gain by helping this guy out. But I gladly agreed to meet with him. Long story short ... he was hired into a management position and the company paid me a generous finder's fee. Moral: sometimes you have to be generous first, with no reward in sight.