Today's uncertain economy is affecting everyone's jobs, businesses and the world of tech in general. The uncertainty is creating psychological, mental, financial and social stress on everyone. Knowledge Center contributor David Gewirtz gives IT professionals some coping strategies to make it through this uncertain and stressful period.
Some years back I wrote a pretty well-received book titled "The Flexible
Enterprise," which was all about how businesses can manage and thrive in a
changing economy. Over the past week, I've gotten a bunch of letters from
readers asking about how all the economic fuss we've been experiencing will
affect their jobs, their businesses and the world of tech.
I've talked to a lot of concerned and confused people. It doesn't seem to
matter whether you're an employer or an employee, an American or someone outside
of the United States.
The economic wackiness all across the world is making everyone a bit nuts.
I'm not going to be a Pollyanna and claim everything's hunky-dory. But I can
share with you some coping strategies that will help you make it through this thing
and come out solid on the other side.
Tips for Staying Successful and Sane
Psychologically, it's really important that you don't freak out. Stay calm.
Freaking out hurts, physically. It also hurts the people around you, and it
interferes with your ability to think. Ever watch a James Bond movie (or
MacGyver)? When things get dicey, our favorite heroes stay calm and get
resourceful-not crazy. Stay calm and get resourceful.
There's a point in your mood where you have the choice of going full-goose
bozo or simply letting it wash over you. There's a point between stimulus and
response where you actually make an internal decision to freak out, to ride the
emotion. Make the choice to stay off the ride.
Stay Calm, Then Think
Once you're calm and in a resourceful frame of mind, the next thing to do is
think. Expect things to get better and start preparing yourself.
Start thinking about what you should be doing. If business is still churning
away, do a better job and charge less. Ask your customers what they need from
you and do your absolute best to get them what they need. But be careful about
just offering discounts willy-nilly-doing so could devalue your brand after the
downturn is over.
If you're between jobs, or things have slowed down too much, focus on building
infrastructure. For an individual, that usually means training. Most of you are
techies, so you folks should use this time to learn or improve your skills.
Pick up a new programming language. Learn a new technology. There's so much
free information available on the Web, including full academic course programs.
There's no excuse for you to not continue your training during slow times.
Be smart about what you spend. This is a big thing. I'm not going to tell
you to stop spending. In fact, a bad economy is often a great time to buy stuff
cheap. But I'm going to suggest a practice I've often used during the leaner
times, and it's always worked: Only buy what you plan to use soon.
It's that simple. Don't buy stuff you intend to warehouse, unless it's
explicitly for investment purposes. If you like to knit, buy only the yarn for
the projects you're doing now. If you like to collect things, only buy new
items that totally float your boat. Don't fill out your collection now. With
eBay and Amazon, stuff will always be there for you.
On the other hand, be sure to buy stuff you really need. Don't skimp on the
medications you need to stay healthy. Take vitamins. Try to eat real food, food
your grandmother would recognize (that rules out everything
I ate between
1992 and 2001).
If you're a business person, keep marketing. I know that's going to sound
self-serving from someone who makes part of his living selling advertising, but
it's important. If people don't know you're out there, you won't sell stuff.
And you need to sell stuff.
Be creative and look for good deals. Ask for discounts and measure your
results. Explain your needs and your reality, and work with your vendors to get
deals that are fair for everyone. Stay calm, and remember your vendors are
probably as overwhelmed and challenged right now as you are.
Finally, be kind to other people. After the last few weeks, everyone's a bit
on edge and some people may lash out. Just be nice. It'll help everything run
more smoothly. It'll help you feel better about yourself, and it may help you
get what you want more easily.
When it comes to the economy, we're all in this together, for real-whether
you live in the United States
or somewhere over the pond. This is an ecosystem as much as it's an economy.
The buying and selling we all do fuels everything around us. And it's that flow
of money that keeps trucks on the road delivering produce, planes in the air
delivering us to meetings and conferences, cars on the road taking little Jimmy
to soccer practice, and you and me in our homes, sleeping soundly.
Hang in there, folks. We're a pretty resourceful people, and it could have
been a lot worse. I think we've dodged a bullet.
Before I go, one warning for the next boom time: If it looks too good to be
true, it probably is.
For more than 20 years, David Gewirtz has analyzed current, historical
and emerging issues relating to technology, competitiveness and policy. David
has written more than 600 articles about technology, competitiveness and
national security policy. He is the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the
International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals. He
is a columnist for the Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.
David is a member of the instructional faculty at the University of
extension. He has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the
Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
David is the editor in chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is the author of
"Where Have All The E-mails Gone?" and "The Flexible Enterprise."
While "The Flexible Enterprise"
is out of print, he's working on a next-gen version of the book to be called
"The New Flexible Enterprise,"
which should be out some time next spring.
David is the recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering, and
was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.