3 reasons recessions are great for careers

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Apr 29

There is gloom and doom about this recession, no doubt about it. There is also understandable hardship, layoffs and destruction going on that requires our help to those affected. But recessions are career builders. Here’s three reasons.

Recessions force you to make hard choices

When the world is happy and all is good, it doesn’t take a genius to do well. Follow the flow and all is well. But recessions are not easy. They are hard. They require you to make choices – and the choices are made under stress. Whether you are laid off and now need to make a choice about a career reboot or trying to perform in a job you are in, everything now asks you to make hard choice decisions.

The higher up an organization you go, the more important it is to show how you decide about your work in tough times. No one cares that you grew the business 10% when the world was growing the business 10%. Instead, they want to know how you kept the business even when everyone else was shrinking the business 10%. What you had to do in your work when the layoff hit your department. What you did to overcome adversity and not just blame someone else for your woes.

Call it character, but hiring managers want to know how you make choices in tough times. Recessions build career character.

Recessions create chaos – and opportunity

Recessions, by definition, contract businesses. Management responds by cutting budgets and laying people off. Everything changes all the time. There is relentless pressure to do something – anything – to keep the business going. The focus is on surviving now.

Yet, the chaos gives the Cubicle Warrior opportunities. If you can keep your head while all about is losing their perspective…you can move your career forward. I call this putting your career on offense instead of defense. The organizational changes alone offer the capacity for you to learn new job skills. Layoffs give you more responsibilities you never would have had without a recession. Special projects that provide value to your manager and department now come along every two weeks instead of every two months.

Most of all, performance in your job counts. Big time. While most people beat their heads against the wall in frustration or blame others for their woes, Cubicle Warriors perform in their work and keep getting to accomplishment. Sure, there may not be a reward for this work right now, but by building job skills and performing, opportunities will be offered to them in the future.

Recessions teach lessons that stick

My grandfather worked through the Great Depression. My father watched the tireless work, tough times and hardships my grandparents went through and out of that hardship came this: he vowed he would never be poor. The searing emotional lesson became a motivation throughout his working life to do well.

There are emotional career lessons that will come from this recession. I don’t know if your lesson is to have one year’s take-home pay in the bank to lesson a layoff’s impact or start a business or vow to work in a field that excites you. Every person is different, of course. But this recession will teach you lessons that will stick throughout the rest of your working life. Make sure they are the right lessons!

How have you improved your career in this recession?