Staying on the Upswing during a Downturn

It’s a well-known fact that a positive attitude is a huge key to success, so when there’s a lot of talk about an “economic downturn”, a “pending recession”, “tough times ahead”, and general doom and gloom coming from many sources, I choose to beef up my positive outlook and keep moving forward.  That’s what I suggest to anyone actively searching for a job, contemplating a career transition, or worrying about the security of their current position.

Your attitude and the image you project is what people remember and that’s who they want to hire or keep on board when layoffs become necessary.  The more positive, confident and eager you are, the more people want to be around you and hear what you have to say.  We are bombarded by negative messages numerous times over in a single day – don’t you think someone with a positive outlook with good things to say and a smile on their face will stand out?  Absolutely!  Here’s how to make sure that “outstanding” person is you:

Pump up your Enthusiasm:  When HR professionals are asked what trait they most look for in candidates, they say Enthusiasm!  Even someone with all the skills and background can be overshadowed by another with more enthusiasm and less qualifications.  Show how much you want that job. Be interested and engaged; ask questions of the interviewer, especially, “what’s the next step in your decision process?”  No matter if this is your first interview with your first choice company or your eleventh interview with the eleventh company on your list – keep showing your enthusiasm.  It does pay off.

Show your Value:  At your current job, step up your involvement and present solutions and ideas that can cut costs or even create a low-cost revenue stream for the company. Take on new projects, if your workload permits, and offer to assist others with theirs.  Show initiative by attending training classes to improve your skills and set your sights on the next position you want within the company and do the things needed to get there. Stay in constant contact with your boss and make sure s/he knows you are eager, ready and willing to do your part to help the company reach its goals.  In the process, yours and your boss’s will be reached too.

Be a Model Employee: Now’s your chance to shine and set the example for others. It’s as simple as showing up on time, keeping your commitments, handling yourself professionally and maintaining that positive attitude through thick and thin.  Be fully engaged – be present with your customers, your co-workers, and management.  Participate in meetings by asking questions. Exhibit good manners, show dignity and respect for others and the company.  Stay away from gossip and complaining and follow that old tried and true rule – “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.”  You will feel good about yourself by doing what’s right and exude a new confidence.


Self Care:  Make sure to take time off from job hunting and work-related activities to take care of yourself.  Know what you need to do to avoid stress. Watch your commitment level and say “no” to activities and people that drain your energy.   Exercise, sleep well, and eat right.  Surround yourself with positive people, places and things. The company you keep, movies you watch, music you listen to, and books you read all can have a subtle yet profound effect on your attitude.  Honor your feelings, stick to your values, and know that you can be of better service to others by taking care of you first.

Work your Goals: Are your goals for this year right there in front of you or safely stashed in a drawer where no one can find them?  Dust them off and review what’s been achieved so far. Pat yourself on the back, then get to work creating new ones.  Whether you are currently employed or not yet, goals will keep you motivated and on track to moving yourself ahead to achieving them.  Break each goal down into manageable action steps and assign a target due date for each of those steps.  Apply the S-M-A-R-T formula to each one – make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and attached to a Timeline.  It’s a proven fact that people with written goals and plans for their future are more successful.  Join that group of people.


Track your Accomplishments: Make a point of documenting your achievements throughout each month in the form of “c-a-r” stories. Write out the Challenge you faced, the Actions you took, and the Results that occurred. This serves many purposes: you now have a record of what you’ve done (thereby increasing your self confidence), material for your resume, and documentation for your annual performance review to share with your boss.  Use whatever system works for you – a computer document, a hand-written piece of paper taped to the wall, or notes on your daily calendar.  Review it often, make updates, and feel good about how you’ve spent your time.

Be a strong Communicator:  Constant communication about your ideas and activities will prove your commitment to your boss and colleagues.  Let people know what you are doing and where you’ll be if they need you.  Let your job prospects know of your genuine interest and the best ways to reach you for interviews by dropping them a personal note or email. Have impeccable follow-up. At the end of each day, ask yourself what activities need one more action toward closure. Be an excellent listener – stay attentive and listen to seek understanding, rather than thinking ahead to what you’ll say next.

Staying positive is a real gift that benefits yourself and everyone you come into contact with.  Make a point of practicing these tips daily so that you stand out from the crowd and ensure your spot as a Valued Employee or Top Candidate for the job.  Good luck with your next career move!

First published online August 2008 through California Job Network ( then syndicated into different US cities’ employment websites

Also published in San Diego Reader’s Job Giant in December 2008

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