Career Survivalism: A guide to surviving an economic apocalypse

None of the unemployed people I have met over the past few years expected to be unemployed. They didn’t think their company would ever go out of business or their boss would actually fire them or the new job they had lined up would fall through after they already burned their bridge behind them. Some were starting over when they thought they would be retiring. Bewildered executives began searches for entry level jobs after decades of climbing the corporate ladder. Visions of vacation homes, boats, and lives of leisure have become still blurrier fading dreams.

Half of my professional career has occurred during the Great Recession. Four years ago giants like Lehman Brothers and General Motors collapsed and the fall awoke the monster. The monster is now well known. To the jobless. To the part timers. To those who do not have benefits. To those starting over.

The monster has spared me, and I am grateful. Somehow my company and my career have managed to continue forward into the economic darkness. I have a good salary and full time hours. I have health insurance and a 401k. I get to wear a suit to work every day. I can afford to pay my mortgage. I am very lucky, but it takes more than luck to survive an economic apocalypse.

Unless congress comes together to make a change, the country faces automatic tax increases and spending cuts that the Congressional Budget Office predicts will plunge our economy into another recession. Am I the only one who didn’t know this recession ended? If the commerce world is going to come an end for the second time in five years, than I will survive again using what I have learned from those who have met the monster.

I will always embrace hard work.

I will remember that thoughts like, “I deserve better pay,” and “I deserve to be off the road,” are evil thoughts, and, “I deserve” is an evil phrase.

I will save money and build my 401k. I will pay down my debt.

I will never stop learning. I will learn and grow faster than my company and my industry. I will keep up with changes in technology. I will find new ways to stay relevant and valuable to my organization.

I will be loyal to my boss, other department leaders, and company executives. I will be a company guy – my company’s very own Captain America. I will make allies in other departments, not enemies. I will help my coworkers achieve their goals.

I will follow my company’s zero tolerance policies like safety rules, information security regulations, and harassment standards.

I will make sound decisions and surround myself with good people.

I will take care of my people, and care about each individual person. I will not yell at them, swear at them, or make them feel powerless. I will embrace the role of a servant leader. I am more like an elected official than a king, and I will remember that the people who put me in my position can vote me out at any moment.

I will lose my ego now.

Lastly, I will take risks, because not taking risks is the riskiest strategy. I won’t stand still. I will sprint forward into the darkness, because I know the monster is right on my heals.