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Learning Survival Guide

When times turn tough, you’ve got to become even tougher.

There are things that you can do to position yourself successfully, no matter what the future may bring. If you adopt these behaviors in tough times, you will be poised not only to survive but to thrive in your career.

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Be tenacious. Be persistent. Practice stick-to-it-ness. In good times and bad, those people who stay on top of things that matter march ahead of the pack. They deliver — on time or ahead of schedule and under budget. Such people often stretch themselves to meet target time frames. They exceed what is expected of them to get the job done. And that is where the most valuable learning takes place in any endeavor. The doing is what matters.

Focus on things that matter most. Exercise ruthless prioritization. You can’t have 25 items on your high-priority list every day. Time-management guru Stephen Covey would agree. In general, there are a few big things that matter most. Nail them, and you will have time for other items up your list. Without focus, you cannot accomplish your goals.

Always have a back-up plan. Do you think that coaches don’t appreciate their bench? You bet they do. Be prepared for the unexpected, and always be on top of things. By doing so, you will be ready when opportunities arise to meet a challenge and win approval. Even when you take a risk, make it a calculated risk. For instance, when you take a job at a startup company, know how you can leverage and sell your experience even if the operation fails.

Embrace networks. You come into contact with people who can help you — and whom you can help — every day. Your network may include business partners, neighbors, or classmates. You never know who may be your partner in business. Think Hewlett and Packard. Ben and Jerry. Smith and Hawken.

Be passionate about what you do. Life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing. Consider people who absolutely love what they do: Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Jack Welch, Meg Whitman, Bill Gates. You can learn many truths by stepping outside your comfort zone. By going out of your way. By not taking the easy route. By working with people who think differently from you.

Hire people who are smarter than you. Tackle problems in which the solution is far from obvious. Embrace change. Take a new hire to lunch. Take calculated risks. And don’t be afraid of failing.

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Daniel S. Rippy (danrippy@hotmail.com) heads strategic planning for CellStar, a wireless distribution company in Carrollton, Texas. He is the author of Sizing Up a Start-Up: Decoding the New Frontier of Career Opportunities, a career guide for people thinking of joining tech startup companies. Laura Rippy (laura@handango.com) is CEO of Handango, the complete source for handheld and wireless business computing, in Hurst, Texas.

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