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Going from surviving to thriving

In an uncertain economy most of our focus is on the plight of the unemployed, but times are tough for the employed too. Times are uncertain at most companies and employees watch as people leave, perks disappear and rumors predict tough times ahead. It is hard to work under such uncertainty, but unemployment is not a better alternative and new opportunities are not always available.

Regardless of whether you love or hate your current position, you should make the most of your time with the company. With uncertain times we can fall in to a pattern of survival. Hoard money. Hoard work. Sulk. Panic. Spend endless hours questioning the wisdom of our employers or predicting the next bad thing that could happen. Fear the future.

All of that behavior is demoralizing, counter-productive and unhelpful. Instead of merely surviving, we suggest thriving. Here are a few ways to do that.

Make Smart Money Choices. Review your spending and make adjusts to allow for more savings. Make sure to look at the interest and payment terms with your ongoing expenses such as credit cards, cable, and cell phone. Make calls to each creditor to see if you are getting the best deal and if there are any ways to make things more in your favor. Not only is this smart to do regularly, but many companies are offering deals to entice customers to stay with them so you should take advantage of those opportunities. I recently stopped by the retail store of my cellular provider to ask a question about my phone. The person who helped me took a look at my account and informed me that the cost of my service was eligible to drop $30 a month. I am not sure that change would have happened if I didn’t stop by.

In addition to budgeting and cutting expenses, make sure to get your finances in order in case of an unexpected financial change. This means addressing any skeletons in your financial closet such as an unpaid debt or delinquent account. Those skeletons get bigger and meaner when you have less money to use to fix them. Finally, financial advisors normally suggest 6 to 8 months in savings. With job searches taking longer, we suggest you move that savings goal to 10 – 12 months.

Become An Asset. Employers are making tough decisions about who to layoff or terminate. Make it harder for them to choose you by finding ways to shine. Network within the organization to gain more allies and friends. Volunteer to help when there are unfilled needs. Show interest in taking on more work or trying out new tasks.

Grow Your Skills. Take advantage of any opportunity to learn more and expand your skills. Whether outside resources or training by your employer - sign up, attend and learn. If you know there are “holes” in your skill set, make sure to seek out training in those areas. For example, I have a client who is an administrative assistant with little current Excel experience. Her skills have gotten rusty since she learned Excel in school. I am strongly encouraging her to take a class and find ways to use Excel at work and home so she can deem herself “proficient” when asked by a potential employer.

Count Your Blessings. A client worked at an organization that cut the holiday party and froze raises. She was irritated and wasn’t afraid to tell people. I was stunned. We have come to see holiday parties, free pop in the lunchroom, free turkey at Thanksgiving, and annual raises as entitlements rather than benefits. Count your blessings and don’t focus on what is not ideal.

Manage Your Attitude. Don’t allow yourself to get down or bitter at work. Count your blessings (see above) and then focus on the positive and what you can control. You will feel a lot better, be more productive and be seen as more valuable at work. If you are feeling down, find a safe place to discuss that outside of work so you can keep your attitude positive when on the clock.

Avoid Gossip and Group Therapy. When things are shaky, colleagues like to talk about how bad things are, predict the next bad thing that will happen, sideline quarterback for management, and gossip about the latest news. This is human nature for many and hard to avoid, but try. Not only do you become part of the problem by talking about these things, you waste time which makes you less of an asset to the company. You also make yourself vulnerable to misunderstanding and judgment by your boss when word happens to get back to them that you were part of the gossip brigade.

So, don’t just survive – thrive! Take control of your situation by making some changes to ensure you are maximizing your time with your employer and are ready for anything.


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