Last week I had called a friend, with the idea of pitching our newsletter services. However the conversation rapidly turned to the unhappy state of affairs in my friend’s company. Layoffs, spending cuts and a lock on the stationery cupboard (okay, I made that one up!) My friend was expecting the axe to fall again (& yet again, definitely on spending if not on people) and hoping that he’d survive. Of course having taken the job less than three months earlier, he was not keen to move — even if the job market were good — which it most definitely wasn’t.
While I commiserated with my friend on the call, it set me thinking. A little bit of calling around made me realize that my friend was by no means alone. There seem to be hordes of folks, just hanging in there — some who actually like their companies but are caught in semi-stasis and yet others would like to get the heck outta there, but can’t, till the market gets better. The shameless fellow I am, I urged all of them to quit and start their own business. Being good friends (at least one of them) they curbed their urge to lug something at me. For the rest of the folks that are hanging in there, here are five things to do, while you still have a job.
- Read – no, reading this blog does not count (not you mom!) – read stuff that you had intended to; whether the speeches of Cicero, The Artist’s Way, Writing Down the Bones, RK Narayan or What Color is Your Parachute? The classics whether the Mahabharata, modern renditions of the Ramayana or Homer’s Illiad will also do nicely. Or the first book that you come across next. Do this with a clear and committed goal (tell a friend to keep you honest) – one book a week or whatever turns you on. But treat this as you’d a project at work. Before you know it you’d be one well read person or at least on the road to becoming one.
- Share – the simplest is to write about the book you’ve just read. Or if that seems too heavy – write little things that others might find useful at work – first aid at home, How to get a PAN card, MS Excel tricks, FAQs, Employee Stock Options in plain English. Or if you are truly inspired convert the whole thing into a blog and share it with the world. Remember to teach is to learn! If you aren’t ready, start with a journal – doesn’t have to be a blog. Just a good old diary, of your thoughts, aspirations, desires and dreams and share with a friend to start with.
- Track your time – this is as good a time as any to see where your time goes – how much of it is spent Googling Daniel Craig or Sarah Palin, or just checking email or gossiping at the water cooler (“Can you believe what she wore to work today?”) How much time do your kids, spouse or significant other get from you? How much of it could have been spent on a treadmill or a nice weekend hike? The sweetest thing about being in limbo, is you’d have all the time in the world — put it to good use.
- Network In the past, whenever someone gave me this advice, I always felt slimy — like one of those multi-level marketing guys approaching you at the grocery store or gas station (Don’t ask!) But thanks to the Internet, you can now pass it off as learning about Web 2.0. So sign up on LinkedIn, Plaxo (they are getting better), get your family on to Geni and if that’s not enough try Spock, FaceBook and MySpace. However keep point 3 in mind and track your time. Kidding apart, a slow business environment is the right time to re-connecting with all those folks from your past and meeting new folks. Of course with all your reading and writing you’d have much to share, yourself.
- Create three CVs It never hurts to keep your powder dry. At the least you will get a good blog post or maybe even a full fledged article on “How to write a killer CV” if you prepare three CVs. It can be a useful exercise to reflect on where you are professionally and where you’d like to head towards actively. So create a professional CV, much like you’d have in the past, create a personal CV, stripping the professional parts out or re-stating them as useful life-skills, as though you were going to run for political office and finally create one as you’d like it to look like five years from now. Of course the reading, ‘riting and reflecting you’d have done would make this a piece of cake.
Once you are done with these five steps, still have job and time on your hands, start over at step one. Good luck!