By Mike Cook
For The Bellingham Business Journal
The recent news of possible pending trade wars has been a source of uncertainty for all financial markets. Should it be a concern for us as individuals, especially individuals who depend on our employment to make a living and provide for our families?
I say yes — but not as a source of worry so much as a source of awareness.
Most of us have a limited ability (or willingness) to see that global economic changes have any relevance to our own situation. We need to get crystal clear on the fact that the global economy can indeed impact us directly in ways we may never see coming.
This knowledge, while not happy, will be easier to swallow if we choose an attitude that places us in charge of the changes rather than victimized by them. Having the sense of authorship that goes with this shift in attitude is more likely to foster personal confidence than any training program you may attend.
Choose to Take Authorship
So, what then is there for us to do in the face of global trends wrapped in uncertainty? I can offer a few guidelines you may find helpful. They may not relieve your anxiety completely, but a little anxiety is probably healthy in that it keeps us awake. Honestly, nothing in life is guaranteed.
- Declare full responsibility for your own economic future. It’s time to give up the flawed belief that if you just do a good job everything will work out. That was never true. Only fluky global circumstances made it seem so. You may be employee material, but let that be part of your personal financial plan, not your default setting.
- Commit to a personal financial plan that can carry you at least six months in the event of an unanticipated loss of employment. Yes, this means you are going to have to make some tough choices. Now, not later, is the time to start. You might have to switch from double lattes to drip coffee at your local coffee shop. You might have to stop eating out regularly and instead reserve restaurants for special occasions. Given the alternative, these seem small prices to pay. Our lengthy periods of economic stability in this country have given many of us permission to be financially lackadaisical, it’s time to get responsible.
- Interview for alternative employment opportunities at least once a year if not every six months. The way the world is changing now, it is impossible for either you or your employer to predict with any certainty just how stable your position is. Believe it or not, knowing your market value will make you a better employee as well. Once you are realistically confident of your worth, there is a greater chance that you will do the right thing. This might mean taking an unpopular course of action such as leaving the company where you work now or forcing tough conversations with your employer about workplace satisfaction and your roles and responsibilities.
- Know what you are like to work with. Interview those around you — managers, peers, direct reports if you have them. Find out if people are getting what they need from you. Find out what they count on you for. Find out whether you have habits that some find difficult to deal with and commit to making adjustments where it makes good sense.
- Understand your talents as well as your skills. Skills are transient in a world where new knowledge is being created daily. Talents are much more important, in the long term, than skills. It’s your talents that enable the level of skill you’ve attained. This is by no means a complete list of actions you can take to develop a personal financial disaster plan. The most important takeaway is that you can choose to not be victimized by circumstances. This awareness alone will launch you onto a more secure path.
- Put your attention on making others successful. In other words, be seen as valuable to have around. If you intentionally focus attention on making your employer or manager successful it will set you apart. Most employees put their attention on doing their job, that’s fine but as a former employer myself I can tell you it is not enough. The people I valued the most as employees were those that understood the risks I was taking as an employer and willingly and intentionally focused on me, or my business, being successful.
Finally, realizing that your economic future is yours to create and can choose to be the author of your own future will make more of a difference than all the tips I can offer.
Mike Cook ‘s columns appear on BBJToday.com every other Tuesday. He facilitates a CEO peer advisory group in the Whatcom/Skagit area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He recently published ‘Thriving in the Middle: Why Managers Need to Be Coaching Each Other”