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From Survival to Revival: Getting Ready for the Recovery

By Dan King

Photo of unemployment lineHow high will unemployment go? Has the job market hit bottom yet? How bad will it get? And when will the recovery begin?

We are frequently asked these questions –- and the answers are not forthcoming. The fact is, “we don’t know.” We do know that there’s no shortage of “doom and gloom” out there, and hordes of people to spread and sustain it. But we’re not willing to run with the herd. Sometimes it’s best to separate from the flock.

Does it really make any difference if unemployment is 9%, 10%, or higher? When you need to activate or advance your career, you can’t dwell on external issues over which you have no control. The more important questions are, “what will the job market look like when things turn around?” and “what are you doing now to prepare for it?”

The revival is coming (hallelujah!) -– and there are lots of things you can do to get ready for it. For starters, you can make sure your resume is in good shape and emphasizes all your valuable skills and accomplishments. Get straight with yourself that you have some value, even if no one’s clamoring for it at the moment.

Actually, this is a great time to enhance your value even more. Take an inventory of your skills, identify the gaps, and explore ways to fill them. Take that class you’ve been putting off, read that book your friend recommended, or immerse yourself in a new activity that stretches your abilities. Whether through formal means or independent action, take advantage of this time to learn something new.

While you’re at it, learn how to network effectively. Few people are able to make it on skills alone, so if you don’t maintain solid relationships, you’re likely to miss out on many plum assignments simply because you’re “out of the loop.” The more people you know, the better your chances of gaining an inside edge on new opportunities when the recovery arrives.

Not good at mixing and mingling in professional groups? Then don’t try to be something you’re not. Find a way to network that fits you and your personal style. Make a vow to introduce yourself to just two people, and then go treat yourself to a hot-fudge sundae — or whatever it takes. In other words, don’t berate yourself for not accumulating 50 business cards; reward yourself for taking a couple of steps outside of your comfort zone. Two contacts are better than no contacts.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to networking. In fact, some of the best networking occurs when you’re not actually networking — when you bump into a friend at the gym, in the supermarket, or while you’re out walking the dog — where simply by talking about your situation, you get interesting suggestions and ideas. Practice your scripting so you can speak positively about the future and not fall victim to the present and past. Practicing this now will build your resilience and make it easier to move forward in a clear and confident manner later.

Finally, use this period of unemployment (or unhappy employment) to develop the forbearance and fortitude to cope with things as they are. Take a daily recess. Get away from your workspace. Turn off your cell phone and pager — and turn on your imagination and creativity. Take a long walk, practice meditation, visit a museum, read the sports page, listen to music, feed the pigeons, whatever … just do it! Be kind to yourself amidst the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds you, knowing that no matter how bad things might be, this too shall pass.

Yes, a revival is coming. So let’s rejoice … and revel in the possibilities that await us.

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