Employee survival guide in a wobbly job market

How to give your career the boost it needs during an economic slowdown.

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The writing has been on the wall for some time: it’s a competitive job market out there and in the labyrinths of an uncertain economy, job security is a thing of the past. How do you ensure that your career survives, and even thrives, amid the conflicting forces, turbulent currents and continuing challenges? Here are a few pointers to inject some momentum into your career during an economic downturn.

Set goals

On a routine basis, you need to sit back and take stock of your career to make sure you are on the right track and have not been veered off-course. If you do not have a clear career road map, now may be the time to start thinking about your aspirations and ambitions and to formulate a game plan. Do you know where you want to be by the end of the year? In five years; in 10 years? It is far easier to pursue and measure your personal success if you have a vision of that success and a clearly defined path for getting there. As you plan your career development, get to know yourself and assess your skills, strengths and weaknesses.

Understand the market

Myopia serves no one. If you are too busy, for instance, poring over data sheets day in day out in the exact same manner you have done for years, you may miss out on the fact that competitor companies have largely outsourced a key segment of their systems or imported new systems that are far more efficient. During a bad economy ask yourself: is it only your organisation that is suffering? Or is it the whole market that is suffering? What industries are suffering? What are the growth industries? What industries are resisting the slump? What can you do to reassess your career goals and preferences in light of those shifts? Keep your eyes and ears open to developments. Try to understand the big picture, not just your own particular set of tasks, as the latter may be defined and redefined by factors that may be outside your control.

Perfect your personal brand

If you don’t have a CV or public profile parked on the region’s leading job sites you may be missing out on key opportunities. Remember, the objective of a public professional profile is to get you noticed by the ­region’s top employers and also by clients and peers. If you are not visible in relevant ­circles you may well risk not ­being in the running for top jobs.

Be flexible

Don’t be afraid of implementing what you learn and experimenting with new ideas. Start by finding ways to increase your performance at work. The next logical step is to innovate. Innovation requires the ­willpower, courage and flexibility to try new things. It also ­requires knowledge and ability to adapt and the professionalism, energy and people skills to get internal and external buy-in for change.

Network your way to success

Times may be hard but that doesn’t mean that meaningful professional conversations aren’t taking place. Try to maintain an active presence in relevant circles, by attending industry events, exhibitions, conferences, forums or even by socialising with peers. You can network with like-minded professionals and employers physically, but also online.

Learn continuously

Embrace learning in all its dimensions, and embrace it as a lifestyle. Learn by seeing, by doing, by reading, by taking physical and online courses, by asking questions and talking to the right people, by experimenting and innovating. Aim to stay ahead of the literature in your industry and pick up books that motivate and inspire you. Share your learning to entrench your reputation as an expert in your field.

Go the extra mile

Look back at your work and make sure it is of the highest quality. Do you always aim to exceed expectations and stretch your own limits? That extra hurdle past the finishing line is the stuff that makes a reputation. There are people who are happy to meet goals and others who look back at their work with great pride knowing they have set new standards and have given their company far more than would have been simply satisfactory. Take ownership of your work and always ask how you can deliver the best possible output, and help others on your team to do the same.

Suhail Masri is the vice president of employer solutions at the ­Middle East job site Bayt.com