How do you recession-proof your career?

Ask The Readers: How Do You Recession-Proof Your Career? — some ideas from others.

In my first real job, a wise mentor who had lived through recessions and layoffs gave me this advice:

* Make sure you are working on a product that your company cares about. “Cares about” is generally equivalent to “important to the company’s overall profitability”. If the company doesn’t care that much what happens to your product/business, well, that is not good.
* You can either make things or sell things. These are the two functions that are relatively impervious to layoffs. If you are not directly involved in the making or the selling of your company’s product/service, well, also not good.

Just what is so freaking secret?

I’ve been thinking about HP’s actions — A Little Ludwig Goes A Long Way: "Pretexting" — and I’ve been wondering — just what is the board of a public company talking about that is so freaking secret? Why do they feel the need to treat a leak like a threat to national security? I really can’t wrap my head around this. I wonder why more board meetings aren’t open like many government proceedings are. I bet that would put a damper on ceo pay abuses among other board missteps.

How to Interview

A great book reco from rich — the perfect prep book. Critical advice on preparing for an interview. Excerpting rich:

  • Before the interview, read the website.
  • Know the three reasons why you are the only and perfect person for the job.
  • Know the three reasons why this is the perfect company and job for you.

Great stuff. Wish I’d read this years ago.

Career counsel

Reading Jason’s post on 8 things to craft your career and john’s on “can you tell me what your job is in 3 seconds” caused me to reflect back on some lessons I learned early in my career.

A very smart colleague at Booz-Allen gave me two simple rules to help me in guiding my career:

* Work on a business that is critical to the enterprise in which you work. Read the annual report of your company — does it talk about your business a lot, does it care about your business, does your business contribute a substantial profit to the enterprise? If so, the company will invest in and protect the business, and you will personally get support and challenges. If on the other hand the company doesn’t really care about your business — then you will be under-resourced, under-supported, and you may very well find your business shut down or sold some day.
* You can either make things, or sell things. These are the two sources of enduring value in a business. And I am using a broad definition of “make” — i mean you have to be involved in creating the core value of the business — whether that be making products or providing a service. These are the functions that have to happen no matter what in a business. Every other function is subject to the vagaries of internal politics, bureaucracy, cost-cutting pressures, and other unpredictable forces — and thus is it hard to control your career path.

Following these rules always presented me with opportunities, challenges, responsibilities, and chances for career mobility. A whole separate discussion can be had about whether you want an aggressively upwardly mobile career-building job at all points in your life — you probably don’t — but if you do, these are reasonable simple guidelines.

Cendant — the most evil company?

Man these guys at Cendant are abusive.

Not for the first time, I got a $10 “check” in the mail apparently from Budget Rent A Car. In the fine print on the check it mentions that cashing will activate a membership in the National Home Protection Alliance program.

More fine print on the back. Wow, I also get a 2% rebate on all credit card purchases. Oh capped at $5000 of purchases, but $100 bucks is something. Oh and I get more discounts, and some kind of insurance benefit on household expenses.

Now the kicker. Well on in the fine print, I see it is going to cost me $39.99 a month for all this. $40 a month!!!! My gosh.

The entire piece of mail is designed to deceive. The true nature of the offer is buried in fine print. The casual customer of Budget will think they overpaid or something and are getting a legitimate refund.

I was going to write a letter to the CEO of Budget, suggesting that they might want to stop selling their customer names to Trilegiant, the organization that is sending out this abuse. But of course — Budget and Trilegiant are both subs of Cendant!


Sage advice for the day

Via Scott Loftesness, William Safire’s advice on his ending his NYTimes columns — “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

And John Zagula had a great meeting last week with Sidney Rittenberg“Yes, the twin brothers of viability and contribution. Unless what you are doing is set up and made to be a viable enterprise, it won’t survive. But unless what you are doing makes a real contribution it won’t attract people, won’t stay vibrant and won’t last over the long run”.

Great stuff.