If the recent recession left a bad taste in your mouth -- and chances are it did -- remember that every cloud has a silver lining. As painful as it may have been, the downturn gave workers insights into how to stay marketable and maintain professional momentum, even during the worst of times. Here are a several key takeaways from the recession and how they can help your career:
Employees were forced to adapt quickly during the downturn. Many took on new responsibilities, learned how to solve problems with fewer resources and began to work more efficiently.
The lesson? Flexibility can be a career-saver and will only benefit you going forward. After all, change is inevitable. Although you can't control whether the economy shifts into high or low gear, you can control your reaction to it. Keep a positive outlook as business conditions or priorities evolve and, to the extent possible, try to adapt to new and different ways of doing things.
Keep your skills current
Many professionals have assumed new roles and larger workloads over the last few years. Doing so successfully has required learning new skills. Along with updating their technical abilities, the savviest professionals strengthened their soft skills. For example, many people have become better negotiators as they've had to do more with less.
But much like the foreign language you studied in high school only to forget once you graduated, your skills will atrophy unless you continually strengthen them. Continue to use your new abilities and understand that different skills sets will continually come into vogue. Remain alert to emerging trends and look for opportunities to build sought-after skills.
Don't ignore your network
Think back to the jobs you've landed throughout your career, especially if you were forced to look for a new position during the downturn. Because many companies weren't advertising open jobs over the past couple of years, professionals often had to know someone just to get an interview. Whether identifying job leads, providing referrals or simply offering advice, your network has probably been an invaluable resource.
Even as business conditions pick up, remember that the people you know will continue to serve as a career safety net. Keep in touch with them, both online and in person.
Also, look for opportunities to pay it forward. Let members of your network know of job leads you uncover and express your willingness to serve as a referral. Helping others will keep your network strong and increase the likelihood that your contacts will offer assistance the next time you're in need.
Always be ready
Whether you lost your job or someone you know did, this recession showed workers that very few are immune to the whims of the economy. Almost any job can disappear with little or no warning.
During the downturn, those who were ready with updated application materials and a solid network of professional contacts were often able to rebound and find employment the quickest. The lesson here: You can't control the job market or the likelihood of a layoff, but you can be ready to launch an immediate job search.
Even if you are currently employed, make sure your résumé is current and continue to update it as you learn new skills, earn certifications or professional designations, and accomplish noteworthy goals. Also, make sure you know whom you would tap for professional references. If you haven't talked with those in your network over the past few months, reach out to key contacts to keep your relationships active.
As philosopher George Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This recession is still fresh in most people's minds, but as conditions improve, don't forget the knowledge you've gleaned. These learnings can help you prepare for and overcome any bump -- or pothole -- that may appear in the road of your career.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.roberthalf.com/. For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.
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