“If you can shine at this moment, you’ll shine forever.”
That’s a pretty strong statement. I’m not sure if any one time period can define an entire 40- to 50- year career, but I agree with the coach that your actions right now are crucial. If you want to stay employed and even advance in tough times, you have to go the extra mile. Here are some tips for how young professionals can shine in an economic downturn:
1. Be solution-focused. Now more than ever, it’s important to bring your boss and clients solutions rather than problems. Instead of saying, “Bad news. The printer has just raised his rates and we don’t have the budget to do our monthly mailer,” shine by saying, “The printer has raised his rates. I’ve researched three other possible printers that are less expensive. Here are my recommendations for how to move forward.”
2. Spend time on highest-priority projects. Now is not the time for busywork. Ask your manager what projects are most important right now and spend most of your time and energy on those. Check in regularly to make sure your work is always as relevant as possible.
3. Be visible. Getting your work done is very important, but it’s meaningless if no one knows what you’re accomplishing. Do not — I repeat, do not — fall into the trap of keeping your head down and hoping that your work will speak for itself. Send positive updates to your manager, speak up at meetings and get up and walk around a few times a day. (To avoid looking like you’re not busy, use your walkabouts to discuss current projects and ask colleagues if there’s anything you can do to support them.)
4. Be a resource. Another way to shine is to be the go-to person in a particular area — industry news, company policies, trend research, a complex financial model, sentence structure, whatever is important in your company (hint: it won’t be helpful to be the go-to person on the best local happy hours). If your expertise is valuable to your colleagues and you’re generous about sharing what you know, you’ll help to make yourself indispensable.
5. Study other stars. Finally, pay close attention to the professionals in your company who are thriving in tough times. Who is getting promoted? Who is landing plum assignments? Who is everybody talking about? There’s no escaping office politics, especially in bad times when everyone is feeling a bit more competitive. As a young professional, you can learn a lot by studying and emulating the actions, attitudes and relationships of your company’s most popular people.
What are your strategies for shining in dark times? Please share!