Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Friday, June 4, 2010

Surviving the Recession - Midlife Lessons from Nature

Many parts of the world regularly suffer from drought and famine and the local people and wildlife adopt well rehearsed strategies in order to survive:
  • They use their resources sparingly
  • They may migrate to regions which have more abundance. The annual migration of the wildebeest in Africa is one of best known examples of this.
  • They understand and anticipate the side effects. These may range from an increase in disease or plagues of mosquitoes and locusts, to a rise in food prices (exacerbating the situation) and on to land degradation, bush fires and ultimately,  social conflict and widespread death and destruction
  • They adapt, as best they can, to their new, temporary environment
  • They take advantage of unexpected opportunities – crocodiles and lions wait in ambush for the migrating wildebeest
  • Outside agencies attempt to alleviate the problems or at least, reduce the effects – Aid Agencies and other NGOs offer food and shelter in the worst effected regions.
As the economic recession continues, what lessons can we, in midlife, learn from the natural world?
  • They use their resources sparingly – This lesson has obviously been learned by most of us. Spending is down (which is, of course, deepens the recession), many people are overpaying their mortgages every month and credit card debt is being paid off faster than before. ‘Eating In’ is the new ‘Going Out’ and the large supermarkets and take away chains are the main beneficiaries. In the workplace, budgets are being cut and we are all asked to ‘do more with less’.
  • They may migrate to regions which have more abundance – Many people will look around for a new job, either at home or abroad. You will have many transferable skills that you’ve gained during your working life (make a list of them, you’ll be surprised) so don’t be afraid to look around for a better position.
  • They understand and anticipate the side effects – The side effects, of course, of a recession include redundancies, and longer working hours for those who survive the cull. Personal relationships may suffer as a result of this and you must recognise if this is becoming an issue in your own relationships, both at work and (more importantly) at home.
  • They adapt, as best they can, to their new, temporary environment – this point is absolutely key to your survival during this recession. Here are some thoughts for your consideration:
1. Network
Make sure you get to know as many managers as possible in your organisation and make sure they know who you are. This means getting outside of your own department!
2. Operate above your payscale
Offer suggestions to your boss, offer to make presentations at departmental meetings. Take the initiative and start (or carry on) doing things that your boss should be doing but for which you can take responsibility.
3. Make yourself indispensable
Help your line manager as much as you can. If you’ve moved around in your organisation, offer to help those who are currently working in an area where you’ve worked previously (without annoying them, of course).

 Go the extra mile
If your line manager asks you to help him/her prepare for a board meeting, for example, go the extra mile and prepare some presentation slides too. They may not be the finished article but it’s much easier to finesse something that already exists than to start with a blank piece of paper.
5. Socialise with your colleagues
Integrate with your colleagues. Go for a drink after work. Get involved in societies and clubs. You never know who you might meet and the deeper you dig yourself into the fabric of the organisation, the more difficult it becomes to do without you.
·         They take advantage of unexpected opportunities – If your line manager leaves, for whatever reason, you may find yourself running the team in a ‘holding capacity’. Take the initiative and do more than just ‘hold the fort’. Make your own decisions and add your own stamp to the team. In times of recession, it is more likely that you will be offered the job permanently, if you show promise, rather than recruiting externally.
Budget cuts may also offer opportunities for you to develop skills which are currently under-utilised. Perhaps you know something about web design and you could offer to look after the company’s web development. Perhaps you could offer to be a mentor or a ‘sounding board’ for new employees?
Outside agencies attempt to alleviate the problems or at least, reduce the effects – In the business world, the government(s) is responsible for tackling the recession. They do this in a number of ways. Currently, interest rates are extremely low. If you have a mortgage that’s not on a fixed rate, overpay your monthly payments. You will be pleasantly surprised how this affects the length of your mortgage term. If you are on a fixed rate mortgage, check out how much you will pay in redemption fees to move to a Tracker mortgage. This may be worth your while.
Haggle! If you’re buying something over and above the usual weekly shopping, ask for a deal. You’ll often get something off the price – it all helps!
There are many survival lessons to be learned from the natural world and a whole lot more that apply in our world. The most important lesson of all is that in YOUR life, it’s up to YOU – Nobody’s going to do it for you!
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  1. Interesting perspective on aging. I write for 2 blogs on the same topic. Used one for Connie Green's challenge. using the Internet business blog for this challenge.Let me know if you want any links.

    Ruthan Brodks

  2. Interesting point you do here. There is a lot to learn from here. Thanks!

  3. I can't believe there are so many analogies for this scenario! I can definitely see the cross over.

    As humans, we've been learning from nature forever. Why stop now?! :-) I've always thought that animals have keener instincts and are, in many ways, smarter than we are.

    Quite fascinating!

  4. Great post! Very informative, didn't think of many of the tips you mentioned. Then again, I'm kinda a shy guy thus 'socializing' really isn't my thing. Though I've seen the great benefits of it.

    And after reading all your tips, it really does seem like common sense to do all those! thanks

  5. Thanks for the comments guys, much appreciated. Other 'nature related' posts will follow during June