Yes Mark Cuban is so right, it is not AD, it is of course not BC or CE, it is WTF.  We get these approx every 10 years – 1981, 1991, 2001, and now 2009 WTF. Except that this one’s come in a little too soon.

Everything seems so not right this year… people losing jobs (even the smartest), some losing houses, companies going bust, relationships getting strained, divorce rates going up and for heaven’s sake even the weather is’nt right either – its raining in Boston and sunny in Seattle. And its not just over yet. Many economists anticipate that 2 million more jobs will be lost (in addition to the 6 million that’ve already disappeared) before the economy starts to pick up again.

But as Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”. So is this year an opportunity to re-invent yourself?

Reinvent Yourself

Many companies are in the process of re-inventing themselves (its not just GM). Layoffs are not only being done to cut costs but to clean up stodgy business units (recession gives a better excuse now). Companies that can afford to raise capital are using the opportunity.  A senior partner from Deloitte & Touche was recently telling me about how his clients are taking advantage of the situation. Cisco raised $4 billion in spite of already having $30 billion in cash, apparently to acquire companies now available for cheap. Deloitte on the other hand in targeting clients such as Cisco and focusing on strategic financial consulting is reinventing itself to be for CFOs, what McKinsey is for CEOs. So its all already happening in the world of business.

But how can we as individuals re-invent ourselves?

Whether you are out of school, fired/laid off from a job, or whether you are stuck in a job waiting for the next break, Mark Cuban lists some great motivational tips, aptly titled The WTF to do’s on his blog which is something you should read and I don’t intend to repeat those in detail. However, I wanted to add some tips that I gathered from my mentors and as I was helping/advising my friends who are out looking. I am no Mark Cuban (although I hope to be  like him one day) but as I write this up I am also making notes to self. If I have missed anything, feel free to add them in the comments.

  1. First as Mark Cuban says conserve capital, be motivated and be ready to take chances.
  2. Revisit your Skills Inventory
    List all the skills you have acquired over the years. The biggest advantage of doing this is to know which other industries you can fit into. If you are looking for a transition, it will also tell you what other skills you may need to get there. The route to your dream job may not be direct, and may need hops.  And just like in Dijkstra’s algorithm, you need to find the right hops for shortest path.
  3. Network, Network, NetworkBUT don’t start with “I need a job”
    Yes, you might be desperate for a job but asking for one right away ends the conversation. Its like asking a girl to marry you immediately after you meet her.  Instead meet for a casual coffee conversation, build a rapport, show what you got, find out more about what they are into, identify any potential problems/loopholes and suggest how they could be solved. If there are no opportunities, you need to create them and in cases where there are, you need to show how you can fit in. Even if you don’t end up with a job, you will leave with lot of gyaan (knowledge) and perhaps more introductions.
  4. Volunteer for Projects in small/mid-sized companies
    No company will refuse free labor and there are many small and mid-sized companies that are looking for help. Volunteer for roles in those companies especially if you think it adds to your skills inventory and gets you references. Hey, its better than sitting idle at home and scanning through the same old jobs on monster (can’t beat a dead horse). In some cases these companies might like your work so much that they’ll hire you. If you are employed and looking for a break in another product line within your firm or a different company, volunteer for them. You’ll probably work 14hrs a day, 8hrs as usual and 6hrs on something that will develop your skills.
    If you are a potential entrepreneur, this is a great opportunity to hire people at no cost (except some daily allowances). Students right out of school are looking for gigs to build their resume in this market. So write up the biz plan and implement it.
  5. Show more than a Resume
    There are tons of resumes out there so how does yours stand out? A position in my company was filled after reviewing 230 resumes. Yes, these came through after filtering and each was qualified for the role. So obviously, you need to show something more. If you are a developer, show your contributions for open-source projects. If you have a professional blog, show your insights through it. Use anything to differentiate yourself from the herd.
  6. Lastly, take what you get, gain experience, be the best and keep looking
    If and when you get something, as Mark Cuban says, just take it for the experience, be the best and figure out whether it is right for you. Just keep in mind that this will lead you to the next. BusinessWeek recently had a great article on what people did in the last recession.

For all you know 2009 might be a blessing in disguise and may lead you to what you really want to do. If GM can reinvent itself why can’t you? Let 2009 be that year! Meanwhile, enjoy what you’ve got and the journey because no matter what, as Louis CK says “Everything’s still amazing right now”.Vodpod videos no longer available.