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by Vault Careers | July 29, 2011


As we all await August 2nd's default decision, rumors swirl of a jump in unemployment—some predict upwards of 20%--plus a government "contraction" many times stronger than that of 2008, if a solution is not found.

No one can predict the future, but here's a guess: however this particular problem works itself out, we'll be hearing more bad news about the economy. Safe bet, right? Doom and gloom sells newspapers, while the latest BLS numbers inspire widespread panic and eventually ennui.

But the funny thing about career success is that it's entirely on a case by case basis. Every challenging circumstance produces its underdog, and if you can resist the media pressure to give up, there's no reason you can't come out on top. Whatever happens on August 2nd, here are five ways to stack your deck.

1. Take solace in your relationships

Not only is spending time away from your desk good vital to maintaining your networking, face time with friends and contacts is great for your stress levels, outlook, and social network (which always comes in handy). The economy's going to go up and down, but friends can act as insulation. Life always looks better from inside of a group of people who look out for each other. So say yes to invites, even if you don't feel like it, and organize a meet up yourself, encouraging friends to bring friends.

2. Use your down time to learn

Netflix and your couch are calling your name, but resist the urge to shut off your brain during your off hours. Instead, read a great book by someone in your industry, play around with a side project—anything to keep your downtime engaging. Being in a state of "flow" outside of your job can be much more satisfying and recharging than just hitting your mental off button. And you never know when that little bit of trivia you picked up reading an industry mag will pay off at work.

3. Pay it forward, whenever you can

You may feel helplessly oppressed by the climate of economic desperation, but remember—you're a part of the climate. We all are. And that means we all have to power to uplift each other. Maybe you're not in a terrific job place, but that doesn't mean you can't help someone else. Mentor, put in a good word for someone, introduce contacts to each other—just give a leg up to someone else. They may just return the favor, and at very least, you'll be putting a positive vibe out into the world. That's no small thing.

4. Try something new—constantly

A brain expert we once interviewed (See "Winner's Brain") said that the best thing you can do to keep yourself sharp is experience something new every day. Broadening your horizons in even a tiny way—trying the yellow variety of watermelon, for example—can given you new points of reference for

just about everything. Aside from keeping your mind open to new ideas, taking a new route home or visiting a new store can increase your exposure to people you may have otherwise never crossed paths with, conversations you never would have had, and that next great business model that would have only occurred to you while your brain was energized and absorbing new information.

5. Keep your eye out for prizes

There's always going to be bad news, setbacks, and tricky circumstances. But sometimes, all it takes is a positive attitude to take advantage of opportunities that could only come out of trying times. Just ask any miserable investment banker that started his own business after getting laid off. If you keep developing yourself and your network and staying open to new ideas, your road can take you anywhere—even in bad times. Especially in bad times, in some ways. All it takes is the eye for an opportunity in the rough, and the guts and mental sharpness to seize a chance when it arise. That's why it's important to maintain those things. In good times, and in bad.

Read More:
It's All In Your Head: Grooming a Winner's Brain

--Cathy Vandewater,


Filed Under: Job Search|Networking

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