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How to Succeed During the Recession: Act like an Entrepreneur

Anxiety is running rampant:  anxiety about job security (or lack thereof), about the current economic climate, about the future of the country, and even the world. You probably don't need a career coach to point out the obvious and tell you that when it comes to surviving this slowdown, the old rules no longer apply. The reality is that our economy is undergoing a major sea change and we must change with it if we don't want to drown. That's why resting on your pre-economic crisis laurels won't keep you afloat.

So how do you make yourself stand out in today's unprecedented environment? Start off by reframing the way you view your position. Prior to the recession, you may have given little thought to the company's bottom line, unless doing so was part of your job description. Nowadays, keeping the company's bottom line on the top of your mind is vital to job security. Make certain you are seen as someone who brings in clients or sales, who finds solutions to problems, and who constantly looks for ways to make the company more efficient. Act as if it's your own business, even if it's not. In other words, think of yourself as an entrepreneur!

I think most business owners would agree that one of the hardest aspects of being out on their own is having to promote their company and themselves on a moment's notice. But the successful ones know that pitching a prospective client or venture capitalist, talking to a journalist, and spreading the word about the company to family, friends, or even the guy mowing his lawn down the street are the surest ways to maximize exposure without spending a dime. So whether you are looking for a job or trying to keep the one you already have, think like an entrepreneur and learn to promote your most valuable product—you!

Here are some tips for getting started on your self-promotion campaign:

Tooting Isn’t Just for Performance Reviews. When it comes to learning how to self-promote effectively, you need to be ready 24/7 anytime, anywhere, for anyone. The opportunities are going to come your way when you least expect them: when you’re riding in the elevator with the CEO, attending a neighbor’s barbeque, sitting next to someone at a conference, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting for a plane. Now more than ever you need to be prepared not just for those scheduled situations at work, but also for times when you weren’t expecting to be "on." Start by creating what I call your brag bag—a running tab of all the information about your best self that can be easily accessed when you need it. Write down all of your “brag bites”—the situations when you took initiative, solved problems, found better ways to accomplish tasks, or generated solutions, especially to problems that no one else wanted to handle or acknowledge.

Convert Brag Bites into Bragologues. Weave your brag bites into several bragologues—short, upbeat stories about you and your accomplishments—suited for a variety of potential circumstances and audiences. Read each version out loud several times until you can rattle it off without even thinking. Ask yourself: Am I showcasing myself in a way that demonstrates what effect I have on the bottom line? Am I demonstrating my versatility? Am I expressing my attributes in a way that is colorful and interesting? If you think your boss or a hiring manager might react to your bragologue with a resounding, "So what," then start from the beginning again.

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Movie. Just as in Hollywood—where what matters most is the movie you just made, not the one from 10 or 20 years ago—what you’ve done most recently at work is what counts. That’s why it’s so important to keep your self-promotion campaign up to date by constantly refueling your brag bag. Be sure to measure your success in tangible and specific outcomes, such as, "By analyzing our insurance costs and switching us to an umbrella policy, I cut our yearly insurance premium in half"; or, "By networking on industry message boards and LinkedIn, I booked five new high-profile clients this month."

Think of Yourself as a Cereal Brand. A brand is a promise—implied or explicit—of the value offered. Your brand—whether carefully crafted or left to chance—determines what will pop to mind when others think about you. Unlike a cereal brand, you don’t have a marketing department to run the campaign! So the job of crafting your personal brand falls on you. As you develop your bragologues, think carefully about what you want others to be feeling and thinking about Brand You.

Use On-Line Networking Sites to Reinforce Your Brand. More and more recruiters and hiring parties are using LinkedIn and other on-line networking sites to search for job candidates or to learn about an individual prior to a meeting. Make sure your profile is always professional and portrays your brand the way you intend. Online venues are also a great place to test your bragologues. If you’re not getting the response you want, tweak your story.

Believe in Yourself, or No One Else Will. I am not asking you to just act as if you are invaluable to the company’s bottom line. I am asking you to truly become invaluable by thinking big, seeking out opportunities to contribute, and using every opportunity to take initiative. You’ll be amazed by what a can-do attitude, a great bragologue, enthusiasm, and the belief that you can do it will accomplish.

About the Author(s)

Peggy Klaus Communication Coach Peggy Klaus is president of Klaus & Associates (www.peggyklaus.com).  She is author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills (HarperCollins, 2008) and BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It (Warner Books).