Linda Nash

Linda Nash

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Seven Ways to Keep Your Career Viable in Tough Times

Job loss or the fear of it is top of mind for many in today's uncertain economy. Those who have planned their career, positioned themselves well, and kept their ears to the ground usually bounce back the quickest from any change.

Complacency sets in easily when things are going well. And then suddenly you can find yourself in chaos scrambling to regain a foothold. So what do you do?

1. Continuously update your skills and knowledge. Don't wait for layoffs.

If your company offers training or has a tuition reimbursement program, use it! This is a gift! Many organizations offer the opportunity to get degrees which will make you more marketable if layoffs come. Don't make excuses - especially, "I don't have time." We all make time for what is important to us. Take one course at a time, if necessary. You'll have plenty of time if you're laid off.

If tuition reimbursement isn't available take any computer, communication, leadership, management or job specific courses available. It shows to your organization that you want to learn and grow and makes you more valuable to your next employer.

READ! Read books, magazines or newspapers that provide cutting edge knowledge for you. Americans read, on average, less than one hour a week. If you read two hours, you're ahead of the rest. Libraries are free. This is a no cost way to make yourself more marketable.

2. Add measurable value to your job. Not what you value, but what your organization values. If you don't know what that is, find out.

What is the most important thing you provide for your organization? Is it quality, speed, ideas, efficiency, safety, improvement, what? The most important thing is not always where you spend most of your time. Think carefully. How can you add value for your organization?

Try answering these questions:

  1. Can you find a better or more efficient way to do something?
  2. Could something be eliminated that no longer needs to be done or is redundant?
  3. Is there a way you can make your department, co-workers, or boss shine?
  4. Can you add a new skill or extra job duties to your current position?
  5. What other things can you think of?

3. Network - network - network.

If the only time you network is when you're looking for a job you have likely missed many opportunities in life. This is the greatest weakness I find in clients who come to me for help. Networking is a way for people to help each other. A well maintained network is both a personal and professional treasure. And even in today's high tech environment, 75% of new jobs, especially the best ones, are found through networking.

4. Update your resume annually.

This serves two purposes.

(1) The most important is to see how you're doing.
If you can't add any new training, accomplishments, or awards, what have you been doing? Status quo doesn't work in today's job market. Times and technology are changing rapidly. Longevity doesn't count for much unless it is coupled with a willingness to learn and grow and add new value to your organization. Updating your resume will help you stay on track for a successful career.

(2) If the worst happens and you lose your job, your resume is ready, you have developed and maintained a strong network, you are highly marketable, and you're ready to find that next, and maybe higher paying, or more to your liking, position.

5. Keep your ear to the ground (well not literally.)

Pay attention to what is going on in your profession, your department, your organization, and your industry. The signs of change are always there. The tendency for even the savviest people is often to just ignore, deny, or hope it doesn't happen. If things are changing find out how and reposition yourself. Always be ready for whatever may happen. That may mean adding a new skill, changing professions (some are always going away), transferring to a different department or facility, getting cross-trained in another area, or leaving your company for a better opportunity.

6. Know what you have to offer an organization and be able to articulate it clearly.

This is important whether you're asking for a raise or interviewing for a new position. The economy is tight. Raises and new positions will be based on the value you bring, the problems or situations you can handle or solve, your commitment, reliability and skill and knowledge levels. Before any interview, ask yourself, what can I offer this organization? Don't think in terms of platitudes like hard working, honest, always on time. Think specifics. What problems can you solve? What efficiencies can you create? What problem can you prevent? How can you make things better?

Unfortunately there are many people who know what they have to offer but can't articulate it. Work on it. Prospective employers can't read your mind. The resume, even a great one, isn't enough. Employers want to assess your attitude and what you believe about yourself. Don't expect them to believe in you if you sound unsure. Practice interviewing. Learn how to answer the tough questions. It is worth the time.

7. Find what you love about your work. Where's the joy - the passion?

What was exciting to you when you first started? What is it you enjoy doing the most? Over time we become complacent even in the best of circumstances. It is so easy to complain about what you don't like and forget about things like being a part of a great team or a sense of pride and accomplishment in a job well done. I met a doorman who obviously loved his work. He was always smiling and happy. It was the kind of happy that energizes everyone he meets. All departments and organizations go through difficult times, but if you can't find anything to love or care about, perhaps it's time to move on.

If the worst has already happened and you weren't prepared:

Get past your hurt, anger, and desire to get even. Your feelings are real and should be acknowledged and processed but not with possible employers. If you're feeling like a victim your job search will take longer.

Go back over the numbers one through seven, think them through carefully, and, on a scheduled basis, begin doing the things you should have done. And when you find that next position, don't forget to be prepared. It could happen again.

Linda Nash
Linda Nash is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author in the areas of change and resilience. To receive her free E-zine Bouncing Back go to  To contact Linda call
314.872.8787 or e-mail

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