The Upside of a Down Market

With increasing unemployment making front page news these days, you may think your prospects for sucess this year are dwindling (particularly if you're already in the market for a new job).

Life's easier and opportunities flow more freely when the economy's on fire. But that doesn't mean that there aren't opportunities in a tightening market — they may just be harder to see. To wit: Henry David Thoreau graduated from college into a terrible depression that would last 5 years. The lack of opporunities pushed him into the "quiet desperation" of his family's pencil factory — fueling the lakeside economic experiment that gave birth to the country's greatest work of transcendental literature, Walden.   

I don't want to downplay the experience of anyone who is struggling to find their next gig. I know its not easy. But when you get frustrated, go big picture: If you've got more time on your hands, or need a break from networking or your job search, what talents and ideas can you explore to create wealth (or at least happiness) in your future?

Sometimes an economic downturn forces people to invest in themselves — rarely a bad move. If you can keep a proactive, positive outlook, you can still move forward when the economy is stuck. 

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  • John Agno

    Over the years, I have discovered success is powered by three things: know-how, reputation and a network of contacts.

    The formula for success = your human capital (what you know) times your social capital (who you know) times your reputation (who trusts you).

    You can take away all my money and even my customer list, but if I can keep my smarts, my business relationships and reputation, I'll get it all back and then some. Having knowledge, social capital and trust is the ultimate security blanket in good times and bad.

    Life is too short for doing work you don't enjoy for people you don't respect. Here are some tactics you can put into play to break through your career glass ceiling:

    1. Change jobs whenever you 'top out.' If you have no place further to go with your current employer, start seeking other opportunities. Making a move every three or four years can boost your pay between 15% and 20% on average.
    2. Know what you're worth in the job market.
    Focus on the pay rates for the job you seek. It's easy to get a general idea of what you're worth from compensation surveys published on the Internet.

    3. Gamble on your performance.
    Request a risk-based bonus based on achieving revenue or other important goals. This is a good tactic when you want the job but believe you're under paid in the company's current pay system.