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Recession-Proof Your Career

Create a Backup Career Plan in Case of an Economic Downturn

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

Layoffs happen! During an economic downturn careers can take a fall from grace. When it comes to overcoming a fall, we think of Alcides Moreno. His name might not be familiar, but his story is impossible to forget. Moreno is the New York City window washer who fell 47 floors to the pavement and lived to tell the tale.

A NYC Fire Department spokesman said surviving such a dramatic fall was nothing short of a miracle. Don't get us wrong, miracles are great. We're just not sure that hoping for a miracle is the best strategy for surviving a career fall, especially during an economic downturn. You'll want a backup career plan.

DON'T limit your possibilities during an economic downturn.

Unfortunately, most of us don't just do our job, we ARE our job. A layoff can feel like identity theft. During an economic downturn most of us think about cutting back, but when it comes to your career plan, it's important to expand your possibilities. Ask yourself: What is it about your job that you like? What was your all-time favorite project? Then, think about how you might transfer those skills to another similar role, another company or another industry altogether. But those career opportunities aren't going to come looking for you. You have to make a career plan to find them. They're out there.

DO explore a brand new career plan during an economic downturn.

During an economic downturn the tendency is to hold on tight to your job, but you should also consider putting energy into exploring new possibilities. People reinvent themselves all the time. Take a look back at your own resume. Chances are you've had a dramatic career shift or two during the course of your work history. We all have. But we tend to forget the zigs and zags of our own careers. Talk to a career counselor, friends and colleagues about your possibilities. Or consider going back to school, especially if you're working in an industry that doesn't have a bright future. Or, try GigZig, a career plan tool that reveals a variety of career paths that other people in your same job have taken. Keep yourself open to all possibilities.

DO start your own business during an economic downturn.

Some people just aren't built to work for someone else. That's why it's important to explore the entrepreneur inside of you. Between the two of us, we've started six corporations, so we're used to the ups and downs of the start-up lifestyle. Create a business plan outline for your best ideas. Talk to entrepreneurs. Play a game of "Sim" business. Heck, see if you have a business idea that would thrive during an economic downturn. Get creative.

DO have something to pay the bills during an economic downturn.

If layoffs do come your way, you need to prepare yourself for possible gaps in income. Do you have a paying skill that you know will bring in money? For example, have you ever met a waiter in New York or Los Angeles that wasn't an actor? We haven't. Do you have a lapsed teaching certificate, jazzercise teaching background, or experience as a night watchman? Have a job to bank on while you develop a new career plan to make bank.

Creating a backup career plan is like a safety net that will help you bounce back should your career ever takes a serious fall.

Next: Create a Backup Career Plan in Case of an Economic Downturn

Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell author the weekly internationally-syndicated workplace911 column. Bob's a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Sherrie's a work relations expert and award-winning comedian. Together they offer 12 years of quick, intuitive and humorous column responses on their website. You can e-mail them at