Career Management during Tough Times : Management Funda; V2 Issue 3

We spend 50% of our time working and some of us cannot stop thinking of work even during the remaining 50% of the time. Thus our work and career forms an integral part of our lives. It is important we manage this part effectively, so that whatever we desire from it, be it job satisfaction, monetary rewards or enriching experiences, come our way.  And it is important we manage our careers even more diligently when times are tough to ensure the good things continue coming our way.

Insulating your career

An economic slowdown may throw up some tough situations in our careers. While it may not be possible for us to avoid the negative impact, it is possible for us to minimize the impact by taking some of the steps listed below.

1. Adapt to changes: In the light of changed circumstances in the economy understand how your company’s current priorities have changed. Align your short term goals to the new focus areas of your organization in discussion with your boss so that you continue to contribute meaningfully.

2. Provide value to your employer: Double your efforts in being valuable to your company. All your good work is sure to not go unnoticed. Even if it is not part of your job description, help your company increase profit, retain customers, increase productivity or reduce expenses. Seize opportunities for your company that these turbulent times may throw up. It could be in the form of hiring talented people who are out of jobs or finding new service or product opportunities due to changes in the economy etc. If you are in a managerial position help and support your team members in coping with pressures of salary cuts, responsibilities to deliver in trying times  and in aligning their work to new priorities

3. Develop skills:  Focus on building skills that will help you remain current in your industry or make you much more marketable. If there has been a layoff and the company has done away with specialists who were too costly, see if you can develop part of those skills required by the company. You may not enjoy the rewards immediately but when things improve you can bet you will get a raise.Develop transferable skills, skills you can use in other industries and roles. That way you can apply to many more jobs when you need to.

4. Develop a clear career plan: This is a time to remain focused on your long term career goals to reach where you want to be. Develop your career plan if you haven’t done so already. Answers to two simple questions: "Where do I want to be?" and "How will I get there?" can help you here. While in the short term, you can take up roles which do not fit into your career plan to tide over financial difficulties, try getting back on course at the earliest.

5. Have a backup career plan: To expand your career possibilities create a second career plan , one which you can switch to if the first one is not working out for you. Get more creative and bold here and plan for career moves that will throw up exciting possibilities.Think of what new career would fit best into your old career? What industries could you transfer into? What are some of the recession proof jobs that you can take up?

6. Network:Finding time to interact with people directly not related to your work can be difficult. But the effort taken in this direction may seem like a boon one day when somebody from your network helps you with a job change.

7. Do not quit your current job unless you are really unhappy: In an economic slow down great jobs are hard to come by. Also new recruits especially people on probation maybe the first ones to be terminated incase there is a layoff. So, don’t even think of quitting if you are reasonably happy with the company but find the current job not exciting enough. Instead explore possibilities of an internal transfer by developing your skills for the identified role.

8. Save for a rainy day and invest carefully: An emergency fund in case you are faced with financial hardships will be useful. The more the better. So start early. Ensure you have a minimum of six months’ take home salary. This will give you adequate time to find a good job incase of a job loss. While investing ensure you also invest in those plans that will allow you access to cash instantly, instead of plans that involve a lock-in rule. You should be able to use the savings when you need it right?

9. Assess your finances and manage them judicially: Needless to say, you should cut down on any unnecessary recurring expenses. Watch your discretionary spending. Now is not the time to buy that home theatre you had dreamed about. Make a budget and stick to it.Health costs can be a financial drain. So take a health insurance for self and family. Clear most of your debts. Develop alternate sources of income like rent from a paying guest, additional income from freelancing or teaching, hobbies that can be lucrative etc.

10. Assess your current job situation: Understanding how secure your job is, will help you be better prepared for an eventuality like a layoff. Do a reality check of your industry. Don’t get taken in by the generalizations. Understand your company’s future prospects. Determine how your department is doing. When Microsoft was doing well, they announced a layoff of people in their floppy disk division. Now review yourself. How are your accomplishments? Does your manager recognize them and think you’re doing a great job? What about the region you are living and working in? Are there other regions in the country still prospering despite a slowdown? Is there a cheaper place to live in?


Most of all stay positive. Remember slowdowns don’t last forever. History will tell you that. Your efforts, resilience and confidence in your self can help you survive and even thrive in these times. It is possible that you may give up your goals and give up on your self when faced with hardships.  But you can also emerge tougher and stronger, having withstood challenges and exploited the various opportunities an economic slowdown threw up. What is it going to be? It is up to you to decide and make it happen.


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  • Rosner, B and Campbell, S, “Facing Your Economic Recession Fears - Career Survival Strategies”,
  • “Countering sudden loss of your job”,Oct 25, 2008,