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It’s Who You Are Coming Out Of The Recession That Matters

I was speaking to my mentor and coach the other day about the long hours that I have been working and as the words came out of my mouth I caught myself and shifted the context from mild complaint to abundant gratitude.

Even though I am only 44 years old, this is the 4th recession I have been lucky enough or crazy enough to participate in during my career in Talent Management. I began my career in 1983 and Chicago at that time was crawling out of a recession. In my ignorance I thought that was just the way business was; in hindsight I see that it was that mindset that served as the foundation for my extremely successful career.

Another aspect of a recession that I’ve noticed is that while some people are grateful for the opportunity to fine tune their companies, others are resistant to change

and frankly ticked off that this type of thing that they have no control over is dominating their life. Then there are others that arrogantly tout their un-need to change as times demand new and creative solutions. They stand firm in their belief that what has worked for the past 20 years will continue to work for the next 20; with no awareness that their end user has grown and shifted and that they have other considerably more options than they did in the past.

In the recession of 2000/2001, I chose grateful and open, it worked for me. It was over the four-year period from 2000-2004 that KeenHire was born. It was my desire to understand why my clients weren’t using me as much anymore that opened my eyes. My eyes were opened for the first time to the point that I might not earn as much money in the next 10 years as I had earned in the last. My research led me to believe that my profession could eventually be replicated by job boards, the Internet, voice mail and off shoring. It also enlightened me to an entirely new industry called Assessment. In 2001, I attended my first assessment conference and realized that between the myriad of sourcing alternatives and the plethora of hiring assessments on the market, the future of staffing would be very different.

Today, I am part of many lively, passionate and fruitful conversations about the recession, the economy, the aging workforce, the up and coming millennial generation, the future of business in America and how technology will impact and impede it. Given 90% of the folks I am in communication with are in business, these conversations almost always lead to the affects all of these converging issues have on the world of Talent Management.

One of my new Silicon Valley friends Jana James’ has an interesting spin and attitude about working in and around recessionary times; in her profound and philosophical manner she said, “Margo, it is not who you are before a recession it is who you come out of the recession being.” Interesting enough President Obama repeated her very words in his state of the union address the other day. Jana had a tap on him, he had a tap on her, or they are both tuned into the same frequency.

I have always held the mind set, when the universe provides opportunity it is imperative for those who are blessed with it to buckle down and fulfill on the promise of that opportunity. It could be the ‘one’ demanding, last minute, impatient and highly selective client that paves the way for us surviving and thriving. It could be the job that we knew would challenge us the most and we weren’t sure we were up to, that elevates us to the next level. It could be the boss who is so tenaciously focused on winning who paves the way to the next level.

We have all heard the phrase, ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and that is what there is to do during these tense recessions. In tough times, it’s work ethic, discipline and tenacity that matter above potential.

These critical behaviors are the elements that matter and matter exponentially, for without these traits – failure and backsliding is immanent. This is not to the time for long periods of rest, shortened hours and relaxing. This is the time for coming in early, staying an hour late, burning the midnight oil and using every situation and contact to generate opportunity. In my opinion there’s nothing like a recession to shake up complacency and give it a swift kick in the pants.

In my own backyard KeenHire is celebrating their first year Anniversary and I have pulled more all nighters in the last year than I ever have in my life. It was only last March that Dr. Stephanie and I worked something like 20 days in a row for 15 hours per day just to get the web site launched, and then hours before the launch, it fell apart. While we were certainly frustrated, our commitment to the future and to the needed change was much more pressing than our attachment to the planned date. Our commitment to launch a great web site won over our desire and attachment to being upset over the muck.

The Good News about a recession is it forces change. It forces companies to review their operating practices and shift the way they do things, for us in the talent business it forces us to accept accountability for our role in our clients’ running profitable companies and selecting the correct people to fulfill on that objective. Recently another new friend of mine, Bryan Morelock, of Gevity sent me this letter from President Andrew Jackson on how some people deal the subject of change. Although it was written years ago the message has clarity yet today. As times are a changing and we must also.

As far as recessions go everyone seems to have a different attitude about working in and through one. Some resist it, some pretend it’s not happening, some hold the position of arrogance, others hunker down, and others blaze new trails.

What’s your attitude today, what will it be tomorrow?


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