Prospering in the downturn

It’s absolutely no secret that the US economy is headed to hell in a handbag, and honestly, it’s overdue. We’ve spent the last 20 years inflating one bubble after another – defense in the 80s, tech in the 90s, real estate in this decade – and the time for another correction has come. That said, while I believe that many of the large financial institutions need to get their houses in order and take their knocks, I also desire no harm to come to my family, friends, and community. Here are some thoughts about how to weather the storm and even prosper during it.

First and foremost, get your own house in order. Figure out exactly where you are financially, and do your best to clean house. Cut down discretionary expenses as much as you can without turning to a miserable quality of life. You -must- have three months’ mandatory expense funding set aside, or as close to it as you can. That will give you a cushion of three months to figure out next steps in the case of job loss.

Having a strong personal network is more important than ever. Not just a strong network, but a large one, one in which you participate and try to help as many people as you can and ask them to do the same. With so many social networks and digital communities, this is easier than ever. A strong network will provide you with information you’ll need to make decisions, and will also provide you with leads if you need a job, etc. as long as you bring as much or more value to the people in your network. The key is to get building as fast as possible. Reconnect with old friends, establish new friends. Attend conferences and other meetups, such as PodCamp, BarCamp, MacCamp, etc. that are free or low cost. Look for opportunities to help others.

I strongly recommend Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, as a good guide on network building.

Build a strong personal brand. Having a personal brand that’s established, clear, and unambiguous gives you the advantage of being memorable. If you can speak confidently about something you’re an expert in, you’re heads and shoulders above most people who can barely put together two words about themselves. That will translate into more opportunities for you. Be clear about yourself, about your goals, and about your passions, and you will build presence.

I strongly recommend Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation blog for more reading on personal brand.

A downturn is also a crowd thinner – if you’re able to weather the storm, once it’s over you’ll find the playing field emptier than normal. Strategically speaking, as competitors go bust during a downturn, if you’re able to weather it, you’ll pick up marketshare and when business trends upwards again, you’ll be in a much stronger position.

What things will you do to weather the economic downturn?

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