The Crisis and Your Career: An Opportunity or a Threat? 1-4

Pepper de Callier

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know we’re in an economic crisis? Personally, I’m in information overload about how it started, who is to blame, what the odds are that we’ll all be living in our cars before it’s over, and what industry will next announce that it’s on the verge of collapse. Having been alive through all the post-war recessions and having worked through the last five, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Unlike most movies, though, this one is a work in progress, and it has a choice of different endings, career-wise, for those of us who remain calm and hang around long enough, instead of running for the exits in a panic.

Maybe it’s because I was raised in the farm country, where common sense and practical solutions were a way of life, but I would much rather spend my time thinking of ways to navigate this situation in a way to bring about a positive, sustainable outcome for people’s careers than to dwell on the negativity of it. I’m not saying that we should disregard all the gloom and doom that we hear and read on a daily basis, because the foundation of common sense is an awareness and appreciation of the facts. But, as I tell the people I coach, it’s not the facts alone that control the situation, it’s how we use the facts that will determine our individual outcomes. Some leaders and managers will use this crisis to mask their own incompetence, some will survive—just barely—but others will excel and actually use this crisis as a way to propel their careers forward in honorable, ethical ways that will greatly enhance their personal brands as valued employees, managers, and leaders.

That is the reason I decided to write this series—to offer some assistance to those of you who are concerned about how this economic downturn might affect your careers and your lives and to offer some information that will help you create your own individual plans for much more than just survival, plans that will differentiate you in a positive way, make you more valuable contributors in the eyes of those who will determine your near-term future (your boss), and use this crisis as a personal brand-building event for the long-term.

Together, we will explore the thoughts and insights of four highly respected leaders who are facing one of the most challenging economic environments in more than a generation. Unlike most of the interviews they have been asked to give, however, our discussions focused on one thing: the human side of this crisis and how it relates to careers. In addition, I asked these leaders to step back—to wind the clock back twenty years or more—and share with us what they would do if they were in the earlier stages of their own careers and they were facing the situation being faced today by managers who, with family and financial obligations, are concerned about their futures. Their answers are truly insightful and, in some cases, may surprise you.

So, what can a positive outcome possibly look like for you and your career as you navigate not only what an increasing number of economists are calling the worst recession since the Great Depression, but future ones that are sure to follow? The initial answer is surely to keep your job. But, there is much, much more to consider: Is it possible to actually increase the likelihood that you will not be laid off? What are leaders thinking about this situation and how are they forming the decisions that will affect you? What are the questions you need to be asking yourself? What hidden opportunities should you be looking for where you are working now? How is the profile of a valuable employee changing as a result of this crisis? If you do get laid off, what should you expect from your employer?

These questions and many more will be answered in this series, but first, let me introduce you to our four leaders in alphabetical order, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for their openness, insights and time during our interviews.

Jane Hannah, Chief Executive Officer, Ceske Radiokomunikace
Tomas Sabatka, Executive Vice President-Coated Paper Business, Myllykoski Corp.
Mike Short, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Plzensky Prozdroj
Magdalena Soucek, Country Managing Partner, Ernst & Young

Here’s a preview of the next installment of this series: From an ethics and best practices perspective, what should you expect from your managers and leaders as we move through this crisis? What should they expect from you? What traits and characteristics are leaders looking for in people as they determine who will stay and who will be asked to leave in a downsizing?

Join me tomorrow as we begin our journey.