Is the economic crisis a threat or hidden opportunity? It depends. For those who see it as a threat, they will maintain the status quo, keep their heads down and hope for the best. For those who see this crisis as an opportunity, an entirely different set of behaviors come out - a renewed sense of energy and willingness to demonstrate their value to the organization. Which set of behaviors increase the likelihood of landing in a good or better place? It reminds me of the story where a man is praying to God in hopes of winning the lottery. After months of not having his prayers answered, God finally reaches down and says to the man “I have heard your prayers but if you could do me a favor…buy a ticket.” To get something better in life, you’ve got to get in the game.
What are some strategies that can help shift ones point of view to recognizing opportunities in a crisis or difficult situation? Here are five:
- Attitude Adjustment – Of all the strategies that can help shift one’s focus, attitude is the most important. Attitude drives behavior. As Dr. Alan Zimmerman talks about in his book Pivot: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success, “No one gave you a good attitude and no one can give you a bad attitude. It’s a choice.” This is a powerful statement and for many a useful wake-up call. Recently Dr. Zimmerman was interviewed on CBS's Early Show and he was asked how we can maintain a positive attitude in the face of many challenges people face today. His response was “Failure is not the falling down but the staying down”. When people have setbacks, he suggests that they avoid the “Why” question. Why did this happen to me? Instead, focus on how you can learn from the failure. Simple, yet useful advice.
- Network – Whether one is gainfully employed or looking for work, networking is a key strategy to stay connected with new opportunities. Many of us find the prospect of networking to be outside of our comfort zone, but networking can bring huge dividends in learning about how one's organization is changing or about job opportunities that may be perfect for one’s skills. Most jobs are filled through someone knowing a person who is right for the role. With all of the hiring freezes, vacancies or even layoffs, now is the time to stand out and show your interest in making a greater contribution. Management is looking for the best people right now, and they have much to choose from. Improve your position by building relationships through networking.
- Take Risks – Networking is a form of risk-taking, i.e. getting out of your comfort zone. Practicing stepping outside of one's comfort zone is an important skill to develop, especially in times of perceived crisis. While others may be retreating to cautious behavior, those who take calculated risks can reap huge rewards. Opportunities are waiting.
- Professional Development – This may be the best time to develop new skills. If one’s organization offers professional or technical classes, jump in. There are multiple benefits to this. Firstly, new skills put one in a position to take on new responsibilities; secondly, it’s a networking opportunity. Most importantly, focusing on developing new skills increases one’s confidence and focuses one’s energy on positive action, versus the default reaction to how bad things are.
- Update One’s Resume or CV - Updating a resume can be a great way to increase one’s personal confidence. Most of us wait until we need a resume for a job application versus using the process of updating a resume to survey one’s skills. When we see our accomplishments on paper, it builds confidence to pursue other challenges or take on greater responsibility. Even if you’re content with your current role, having a resume handy can be very useful if a new opportunity arises. This is a competitive job market and many others are prepared to jump on an opportunity that may be perfect for you.
In times of crisis, we can dig our heels in, close our eyes and wait for the anticipated changes around us to happen. This is one option. We can also choose to get in the game by facing the challenge and asking “How can I help myself be in the best position when the dust settles?” Reminding each other we have this choice is the best way to help ourselves and others through this economic crisis.
There are hidden opportunities in a crisis. The question is: Will we allow ourselves to get involved, take a chance and trust that we will benefit from our decision to be proactive?
Many thanks to Denis Walsh for his observations and feedback.