Companies are in a planning mode. Are you?

Dr. Rebecca Schalm,

Depending on where you live, the recession has either hit you hard or soft. But all things considered, we have withstood the storm reasonably well. Of course, that is not to say individuals have not suffered. And malingering unemployment rates suggest we still have a way to go.

But friends in executive search say business is "steady" and they tend to be a leading indicator of the state of the economy. Business in talent management has been more robust since the spring, which suggests that, even if a glut of hiring isn’t occurring, companies are thinking about and planning for the future. Are you?

Are you in recovery or growth mode?
One of the consequences of an economic recession is a generalized retraction in the society at large. People hunker down and stay put. They temper their ambitions and expectations. Some days they are just happy to draw a paycheck.

Speaking for myself, I can confidently assure you I spent 18 months in "batten down the hatches and hang on" mode. I am probably similar to a lot of people: the recession took the "mickey" out of us and we set aside such traits as confidence, ambition and striving as we wondered what the future would hold. We were all simply hoping that it would not last too long.

Is it possible to move forward when you are operating in a frame of cautious pragmatism? My understanding of human motivation and behavior suggests the answer is a firm "no".  

But it is now time to move forward, to get on with things. At least that is the sentiment I am hearing from those around me. People are starting to make change a priority, and it is indeed time to make forward-looking decisions about your career and your life. It is time to re-ignite your ambition and start to dream about what is possible. It is time to stand up and say ‘this is not enough’ and start to seriously look for something that fills more than your bank account.

But the first step to achieving change is always the toughest. After 24 months of shock and awe, how does someone move forward and reclaim their ambition, aspiration and life energy? Here are some strategies for taking that first step:

Dream big. Do you remember when you had big dreams? Dreams, after all, don’t hurt, especially as you don’t have to actually do anything. There is no harm in re-imagining what you want your career and life to look like. In fact, if you have not spent time living in your imagination for a while, it is time to pay it a visit.

Re-establish career and life goals. You don’t need to map out what you want your future to look like in detail. Consider a few key questions. What do you want to be doing five, 10 or 15 years from now? Is what you are currently doing taking you down that path? If not, what might you do within your current circumstance to create a shift? What would a bigger, bolder step look like?

Your future begins today
Make a decision about change. You can make a decision to do something new or different without acting on it immediately. Making a decision, however, puts you in a different mindset. You become more open and proactive. You see things you might have ignored previously. You create possibilities where few existed. Verbalizing your intention will make it more tangible and real and will start the shift from dream to intention.

Consider your options. Whether you pursue an opportunity is completely up to you. You are in the driver’s seat, and there is no penalty for taking a pass. Take time to evaluate each possibility. Does it align with your dreams and goals? Is it a change that makes sense? Do important people around you see this as a positive change? The advantage of a slower-velocity business environment is that you can take time to think.

Act. It is impossible to take action without sufficient preparation. To act in the absence of preparation is called impulsive – which might turn out OK but might not. At the same time, you need to be willing to take a degree of risk, which can be tough to do in the midst of a recession. But unless you do something, nothing is going to change.

Your future begins today is a phrase both trite and over-used. Fortunately, it is also true.

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