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Recession-Proof Your Career

Career Advice: Revitalize Your Career During a Recession

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

Most people think that their career should be like an escalator ride that only goes up. In reality, few careers are like that. Most of us have stretches where our career goes sideways or even down. Due to the current recession, it's very possible that sometime in the next year you'll find yourself facing a career transition.

This action plan is full of career advice from real people who have risen above sinking careers. There are four common ways in which people overcome dull, inert careers:

Follow these tips and you'll prove to yourself that It is possible to get ahead during a U.S. recession - instead of getting laid off.

Take on tough projects during a U.S. recession
If you want to receive employee recognition, volunteer for the tough tasks that lazier workers avoid. It's easy to play it safe and do the job that's handed to you. It's much harder to branch out and risk failure. Your willingness to do challenging work will be recognized, even if the project isn't successful. Plus, tough projects often come with benefits such as access to executives, customer interactions, additional training programs and resources that can give your career a boost.

Get Ahead at Work Checkup Questions:

  • How much risk are you willing to take?
  • How can you add tough new projects to your already full plate?
  • How will you share your contributions with company leaders?

When you find your career going sideways or down, we hope that you can draw inspiration from this career advice and feel confident to start your career exploration.

Get Back in the Game

Both of our moms were fond of saying, "Get up, dust yourself off and get yourself back in the game." Below are three examples of people who did just that with their careers.

Revitalize Your Career - Exploration Checkup Questions:

  • Are you persistent or do you give up easily?
  • Do you follow your passion?
  • How do you maintain your creativity?

Here are three people who stepped up instead of giving up.

Revitalize Your Career - Recession Career Action Plan:

  1. Keep trying. Abraham Lincoln failed in business. He failed in politics, over and over again. Yet he kept at it until he became one of the best Presidents in the history of the United States. Persistence paid off for Lincoln, and can pay off for you as well, even amidst the current wave of recession fears.
  2. Trust your passion. Mark Cuban was fired from his job in a computer store because he was more interested in selling and working on computers than in sweeping the floor. He is now an Internet billionaire and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Because Cuban trusted his gut and embarked on a career exploration, he found success in a career of his dreams.
  3. Get more creative. Walt Disney is the visionary behind Mickey Mouse, theme parks, movies and a wide range of other creative ventures. But he was fired from a newspaper early in his career because they said he "lacked creativity." Disney went on to fuel an entire corporation with his creative vision.
Challenge Yourself
Is going to work too fun, comfortable or easy? Comfort can make life easy but it can also be boring. And comfort at work may mean that you're not sufficiently challenged - it can be a classic warning sign of a career in danger. Sometimes a dramatic change is the best road career exploration and success.

Revitalize Your Career - Exploration Checkup Questions:

  • What is your vision for the future?
  • How do you bounce back from disappointment?
  • What steps to you take to invest in your own creative vision?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable but is almost always worth it. Here's how three people used stepping out to their advantage.

Revitalize Your Career - Recession Career Action Plan:

  1. Focus on what's next. Jesse Ventura has been a wrestler, actor, talk show host and governor. Each time he's been fired he simply asks the question, "What's next?" Ventura has a remarkable ability to look forward rather than dwell on the past. It can be easy get caught up in recession fears but by focusing on what's next in your career exploration, you'll set yourself up for success.
  2. Bounce back. Michael Bloomberg was let go after Salomon Brothers went through a merger. With a big severance package he didn't have to work another day in his life. But he used the money to bounce back and start a new company. Later he bounced into being the mayor of New York City. Bloomberg showed that being let go can lead to even bigger opportunities for career exploration.
  3. Invest in yourself. J.K. Rowling was fired from her job as a secretary because she was found writing creative stories on her computer. She used her severance from that firing to complete the first Harry Potter book, which has made her a billionaire. When Rowling got fired, she looked at it as an opportunity for career exploration and to pursue her passion.
Find New Career Opportunities
Even in the face of recession fears, career exploration can mean leaving your current position or company in order to move up. Here's how three people encountered success when they were forced to find a new career opportunity.

Revitalize Your Career - Exploration Checkup Questions:

  • How could you change scenery?
  • What options are there for moving within your industry or company?
  • What companies or cities would you consider relocating for?

Home may be where the heart is, but sometimes the best career exploration opportunities are in a new zip code.

Revitalize Your Career - Recession Career Action Plan

  1. Explore a change of scenery. By the time Joe Torre was in his 50s, he had a losing record as a baseball manager and in 14 years had lead only one team to the playoffs. Then he became the manager of the New York Yankees and won four World Series titles in five years. Torre believes that "tough times don't last, tough people do." He knew he would be successful when the right opportunity came along. Torre's lesson? Maintain confidence in your own career exploration journey and eventually you'll create your dream career.
  2. Move within your industry. After being fired from the Ford Motor Company, Lee Iacocca led one of the most remarkable corporate turnarounds in history at Chrysler. He says, "The old phrase 'If you lie down with dogs, you'll wake up with fleas' still applies in business." Iacocca turned his firing into a career opportunity - and went on to do something bigger and better. Getting laid off - or fired - may reveal a hidden career opportunity.
  3. Move to Branson. Okay, we all can't move to Branson, Missouri and open our own theater. But Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff took his drowning career and made himself the big fish of Branson. Smirnoff found a new home for his talents - and great success.
Simplify - and Enjoy the Ride
Taking a step backwards can help you to see your career in a new light. What you may find is that simplifying your expectations can open up hidden career opportunities. . Hopefully the career exploration stories below will help you see that sometimes the best way to go up is to start by going down.

Revitalize Your Career - Exploration Checkup Questions:

  • What aspects of your vision can you simplify?
  • How do you track your goals and keep them in sight?
  • Who can teach us to not get jaded?

Although, recession fears make it seem like the economy may never recover, it's important to remember that things can also go back up. The following stories show that what goes down can indeed go back up.

Revitalize Your Career - Recession Career Action Plan:

  1. Go small. Apple always had a creative vision, these days it also has products that most of us just can't live without. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs is at the top of his game. So it's easy to forget that he was once dumped by his own hand picked successor and had to start out at much smaller enterprises.
  2. Don't lose sight of your goal. After he lost the California governor's race, Richard Nixon famously said, "You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore." Nixon rose from this defeat to finally achieve his goal of being President of the United States.
  3. Don't get jaded. Larry King has had incredible highs and lows in his career. He went from being a high profile columnist at the Miami Herald to doing interviews at a friend's deli. He hosted a national radio talk show and then had to declare personal bankruptcy. King attributes his success to the fact that he never allowed himself to get jaded and he always kept his curiosity.

More: Keeping Career Motivation During a Recession

Resources: Research Careers with GigZig, the Career Exploration Tool

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 workplace911.com website. You can e-mail them at bs@workplace911.com.