In Uncertain Times, The Tough Step Up

Sara Hathorn
November 3, 2008 — 2,380 views  
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When times become uncertain and the economic forecast is bleak, people lose faith in themselves, ultimately affecting their image. In today's business environment, with companies reducing work forces, and mergers or acquisitions occurring weekly, it has become even clearer that to stay at the top you need to project a great image. To remain highly competitive in today's job market, whether you are intent on keeping your current position or hoping for a career move up the corporate ladder, it's critical that you evaluate your attitude and your involvement in helping your organization achieve great long-term results. In this article I've shared a few tips with you to help you stay in everyone's mind at your company so that when the economy turns around and they need someone in a higher position, you are the one that quickly comes to their minds!

A Positive Attitude is Key

When the economy slows down and companies have to streamline their personnel, it's often difficult to not get caught up in worry and anxiously start looking for another job. Think about your seniority and let common sense and logic rule. It's critical to work extra hard and have a positive outlook on things, which says a lot about you being able to endure difficult situations. There are likely a lot of challenges in your job everyday. The higher you aspire to go in any organization, the more you will be required to be logical, positive and consistently decisive. No one likes to be around a complainer that brings an entire team down. I'm not advocating you being a "Pollyanna," but I do think you need to remain positive and have a motivating outlook on the future if you want to lead people in any organization.

Step Up To Work on Committees

With today's crisis we are seeing mergers, acquisitions and company failures happening everyday, especially in the financial industry. Many more companies may be forced to merge in order to increase their ROI. If your company has announced it may be merging or acquiring a competitor, nothing can help you get greater exposure than volunteering to work on a merger/acquisition committee at any level. Even entry-level employees can help newly merged employees feel at home and help them understand the company culture. A merger or acquisition is a huge task for any company. Over the twenty years I worked for Federated Department Stores, I survived many a merger and I know they were thankful for the many executives who helped on the transition team to make it as seamless as possible for employees. When you volunteer to assist, you are giving the perception that you want to be on the new team and are willing to help mentor others. That says a great deal about your image as a person. It speaks volumes about your commitment to the company and your sense of loyalty. They know they can count on you in difficult times, and you can become an integral part of the reorganization strategy. It's also a great accomplishment to list on your resume, showing your willingness to help a company succeed. The exposure will keep your name in the limelight when your employer is looking for those to advance and take on greater responsibilities.

Recession-Proof Working Wardrobe

Now let's talk about shopping. In a down-turning economy people always want to cut back on their wardrobe, assuming it is a great cost-cutting measure. For the business professional that wants to make a great salary in the future, this is not the wisest choice. Your professional wardrobe is one of your key marketing tools in establishing you as an expert and attracting more elite clients. I am currently recommending to my clients that they back off on buying a lot of new casual clothes, but continue building a versatile working wardrobe, updating it to look current and fresh. People are making judgments about you in less than a few seconds. A potential client has already decided in less than two minutes whether you are the person he or she wants to hire. Psychologists tell us that in those few seconds people subconsciously make decisions about you based 55% on your visual appearance and body language, 38% on your voice and only 7% on the words you use to sell them your services. I say learn to shop like an expert. You don't have to go out and buy several new suits, unless they really need replacing. You do need to continue to look modern and polished by adding a few new ties and shirts - or blouses and shoes - to update your existing wardrobe. Don't forget the more you wear your items, the faster they will wear out. Having a slightly wider selection in your closet will have things wear out less because you will wear each item fewer times. Also, buy the best quality clothing you can afford, even in challenging financial times, because cheaper clothes will have to be replaced more often given that they will wear out faster.

A Polished Image Is Always a Winner

Your image tells others how you feel about yourself and who you wish to become. I believe that it is very important to keep a polished image during tough times. Let me give you an example of a real life scenario that is taking place everyday in today's work environment. Imagine you are the VP of Human Resources and you must reduce your workforce by one in the accounts receivable department. You currently have two people who have the exact same work experience, education and background. One can stay and one must go. You are faced with making this difficult decision. One person comes to work in a stylish haircut, is always well groomed, her clothes are impeccably well pressed and she is always smiling and has a great attitude. The other individual comes to work unshaven and hair unkempt, wears wrinkled clothes as though it looks like he slept in them the night before and he is always complaining about the organization. Between these two people, which one would you choose to keep? I think you will agree that your image is multi-faceted. It encompasses your looks, your behavior, your attitude and your professional grace. It defines how others perceive you. Those perceptions can either make or break you in today's competitive world. If you follow the above tips, they will help you transition through tough times with ease. You will not only likely keep your present job, but you may find that improving on your image could be your best investment towards achieving greater career success.

About the Author

Sarah Hathorn is a certified image consultant, speaker and corporate image advisor. She is the co-author of the new book, Image Power. Blog & Website: Phone: 678-528-1239 Email: [email protected] Copyright © 2008, Sarah Hathorn, AICI, CIP. This article may be reproduced only in it's entirely, including the above bio.

Sara Hathorn