PR17 Your Brand for All Economies Unemployment numbers were up in August 2008, an indication that uncertainty about the economy continues to be a concern for employers. The plain fact is that we are in the midst of a cyclical economic downturn as the economy makes one of its natural and periodic adjustments – which means that it’s more important than ever that you ensure your personal brand remains intriguing to customers and to employers. During economic downturns, employers are less likely to make new hires. And when they do bring new people on board, in many instances these employers are trying to bring in a “corrector” – someone who can fix problems that were blamed (not always fairly) on the person who held that position in the first place. As shining and attractive as these offers can be, it doesn’t always make sense to leave a position or jump to a new client in such cases. Once an employer has identified its “problem child,” it’s very difficult for them to accept that other factors –the economy, a change in consumer habits – may be responsible for their poor numbers. Moreover, economic downturns can lead some employer to “cut the chaff.” That often means that mid-level employees with high salaries lose their positions to younger people in the department who can be paid less and require smaller benefits packages. It also means that even in offices where there are no logical successors to your job, your employer could look outside to try to realize savings by lowering the amount of money they spend on your salary package. Because of this, it’s imperative that you ensure that your personal brand remains updated and complete. You have to look like more than your job – in other words, you should appear to be the go-to guy or gal that can do your job and more, in the event that your company needs you. Keep up your public profile; make sure your professional Web page is current, and maintain a dialogue with colleagues in your industry and related fields. They may have ideas that you can use to boost your company’s numbers, and can also allow you to take the lead on new trends that may soon be adopted by your competitors. Maintaining a public profile also allows other employers to reach you. I always recommend that even if you’re happy where you are, it’s a good idea to leave the door open to new offers and opportunities. You never know when these relationships will come in handy. If your employer really is in a tough spot and it looks like downsizing is inevitable, you can take one of two options (besides putting your head in the sand and waiting to feel the sharp blade of the ax on your neck). You can find another position – thanks to your well-defined and impressive brand – or you can approach your employer about temporarily adjusting your pay package to accommodate their current numbers. Only do this as a last resort: if you see that other companies are not hiring or that successfully setting up shop on your own is not a realistic possibility. You do not ever want to lower your worth to the market. However, if you approach your employer first and ensure that you are agreeing to a temporary situation – and with the guarantee, in writing, that you and your employer will revisit this issue again in two months. Do not make it six months; you can always extend the term of your agreement as the situation
requires. However, many shortfalls in companies are merely related to the cash-flow problems of their clients, and you don’t want to take the hit for a longer period of time than necessary. Also make any agreement to temporarily lower your salary dependent on some other requirement – more vacation time, a better office, or a more impressive title. If the situation looks like it will last longer than your agreement, use your time with certain employment to look for a new position. It’s unlikely that your boss will downsize you after making this agreement, but you have to be ready to move if the company situation is going to affect you in the long-term.