How to Bullet-Proof Your Career During Uncertain Times

What we can expect in the months to come is anyone’s guess, but there is no question that when you’re confronted with the unknown, it pushes you to think differently about how you’ll manage change. If you’re wise you’ll think critically about your strategy for preparing your life and work for change.

Resilience, resourcefulness, and character will serve you well, and you can apply all three qualities when implementing these techniques for bullet-proofing your career during uncertain times:

Keep Your Network Warm

When I say “warm” here, I mean it in two ways. First, warm in the sense that you’re regularly nurturing these relationships (rather than allowing them to go cold, or waiting to reach out until you need something). Second, when I say “keep them warm,” I also mean it in a literal sense: You should do you part to show these people that you care, and in some cases, actually care for them! Apply the Kennedy Principle when it comes to your network.

John F. Kennedy’s historic inaugural address words “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” challenged a nation to contribute in some way to the public good. What does this look like when applied to your network? It’s as simple as sending a message that sounds something like this:

“Last time we talked, you mentioned struggling to find an executive assistant. How’s that going? I’m happy to make a recommendation if you’re still hunting!”

“I wanted to take a moment to say hello now that we’re a few months into the year. Did Anna pass that certification? I ask because our team is seeing great results after completing some training via MITx — let me know if I can share more details.”

I’m sure you’re seeing the picture. This isn’t just about “checking in,” or blasting your network with a blanket email asking for job leads. It’s about reaching out to nurture a meaningful connection with the person on the other end. These connections will prove to be indispensable to you when navigating any kind of change in your career.

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Ensure Your Value Proposition is Crystal Clear

When you’re searching for a new job, you need a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition). In a nutshell, your USP is the skills, knowledge, or experience that you can offer, but others can’t. Savvy professionals continue to reinforce and articulate their USPs even after they are hired…and those most likely to be laid off or passed over for promotions tend to leave them to collect dust.

This begs the question: How can you ensure your value proposition is clear and visible in your current role?

As a first step, bring your A-game. Arrive early. Stay late. Always be on the lookout for more work and be vocal about it. Be quick to respond to group texts and on Slack conversations. Share your ideas. Be a thought leader. Your proactivity and enthusiasm won’t go unnoticed, but on the off chance that it does, pair your efforts with a little shameless self promotion. Report on your progress and recap big wins regularly and in writing.

Continually build the case that your efforts make the lives of your superiors easier and you’ll stand apart from your coworkers, even when times are tough.

Hope For The Best (& Prepare For The Best Too!)

Whatever you do, don’t panic. I can’t emphasize this enough. The temptation in uncertain times is either to scramble and grab onto any buoy that floats by. Or worse, to hoard all of your resources like a squirrel preparing for a long, cold winter. Both impulses feel like logical moves when you’re facing potential risk, but they’ll actually impede your success.

“I’ve been buying American stocks,” Buffett wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times in 2008. “A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful,” Buffett wrote.

To be clear, I’m not encouraging greed here. I’m encouraging you to maintain a positive outlook even when those around you are panicking. Avoid the negative. Don’t gossip. Don’t feed into the downward spiral. Put yourself out there as though opportunities are everywhere instead…and do it with your best foot forward.

Have your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date at all times. Set up job alerts for roles you may be interested in. By not just hoping for the best, but acting as though you’re ready for it with every word and action you put into the world, you’ll attract opportunities even in the face of abrupt, unpredictable change.

While the world may feel uncertain, your career doesn’t have to. The secret to bullet-proofing your career really boils down to working both in it (taking care of your day-to-day responsibilities) as well as on it. Networking, bringing your A-game in your current role, and attracting the best of what’s out there by being both positive and prepared – do these things, and you can be confident in your strategy for preparing your career for a future that feels precarious.

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