Get out your career survival kit … you may soon need it

 

Survival of the fattest was sometimes seen during the world’s last economic crisis when banks that were “too big to fail” were bailed out. Survival of the fittest is more likely in the next downturn as businesses and state enterprises assure their future by doing more with less.

How close are we to such a crisis and what can executives do to protect their careers?

Recession may be closer than we think.

South Africa is close to zero growth and many observers believe global crisis is imminent. They identify various triggers – a big Wall Street correction, austerity in Europe leading to social upheaval, negative interest rates taking markets into uncharted territory or a hard landing by the Chinese economy.

The end of the commodities Super Cycle has already impacted resources and emerging markets. Anglo American alone is planning to axe 85 000 jobs.

Meanwhile, to avoid sovereign debt rerating to junk status, our government is seeking public sector efficiencies and considering the amalgamation of departments (perhaps entire SOEs).

Many managers are unprepared for tough times.

The 2009 recession was short lived. Effects were most severe among youthful job seekers who found there were simply no vacancies.

If another downturn comes it could last longer and managers with a career path stretching back five, 10 or 20 years could find they are in the firing line this time.

Clearly, perceptive managers must ask themselves ‘Why should the company keep us on?’

Here are seven ‘items’ that belong in any career survival kit…

1. Energy: display a get-up-and-go attitude. Be prompt, be lively, be alert at every meeting and every interaction with peers and subordinates.

2. ROI: people generate ROI as well as departments. Don’t assume the firm’s investment in your training and career pathing protects you. Demonstrate a return by achieving KPIs and strategic goals.

3. Positive attitudes: Companies shed ‘thorns’ in a downturn. Don’t be an irritant. Be enthusiastic. Don’t be a nay-sayer. Be a solution-provider.

4. Creativity: Be a source of new ideas. Don’t simply throw out ideas at a meeting, develop winning concepts, take ownership and make sure you are associated with successful initiatives.

5. Hard work: Talent alone won’t protect management jobs. Demonstrate value by working hard and smart, and displaying natural ability.

6. Ability to look ahead: Don’t await events, anticipate them. Savings and efficiencies will be focus areas. Don’t wait for top management to explain the obvious. Consider options, make estimates and make a start. Make sure your proactive approach is noticed in the right quarters.

7. Realism: Show you’re alert to new realities and the new normal. Show your eagerness to take on a new role. This may entail greater responsibility and more work as amalgamation and rightsizing take place. You may find the job grows, remuneration doesn’t. Stay positive. Reluctant acceptance strikes a sour note.

Attributes like this may not guarantee your career survival, but they will identify you as a potential asset in challenging times. If we avoid recession, you’ve lost nothing. Qualities that are good for career survival are also good for career growth.

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