Perpetually upbeat, Ann Carlsen, Founder and CEO of Carlsen Resources, says the job market is tough for people who believe “the old model” still works. She argues that with leaner companies only employees prepared for the new realities will survive. In anticipation of her WICT panel in April, Carlsen spoke with CableFAX contributor Daisy Whitney about survival skills.  

What’s your advice for operating lean and mean?

Cut the people last… not first. If you must [make cuts], take your time when considering lay-offs… with the costs of rehiring and training as much as 200% of annual salary and with a dwindling pool of top performers available,
it’s a short-term solution with long-term implications. History tells us the ‘slash and burn’ mentality is more costly in the end. Invest heavily in your top performers, and they will remember you when times improve.

How do you continue to innovate in this sluggish economic environment so you are well positioned on the flip side when things improve?

History has shown us that there is never a better time for coloring outside the lines, for being creative and innovative as in a recession, when backs are against the wall. People are forced out of comfort zones and into doing their best thinking. Take chances, harness ideas and invest in them.

From a personal sanity perspective, what’s your advice for maintaining a positive attitude in the face of bad news?

Find ways to make a difference to the bottom line; don’t blindly accept that nothing can progress because of the economy. Act like a survivor who exudes confidence, has an eye on the future and an eye on the competition. Be
known as a person who loves change. Give your boss hope. Inspire your colleagues. Get out and walk the floor. Start a company newsletter with inspiring stories. Accept that different is not bad. Take charge of your own career and think like you are self-employed (job security is an oxymoron). Have a plan B. It’s not so scary when you have faced the ‘worst thing that can happen’ in advance.

How bad is it for job seekers?

It’s only bad if you are operating from the old model. The old model is gone forever… companies will be flatter, smaller, with fewer people doing more. Companies will stick to core competencies and outsource the rest. Management roles will be limited, hierarchy will be gone and instead there will be networks of people with very specific specialties (mostly consultants) doing the work on a linear team. It’s become a very Darwinian workplace. You must DIFFERENTIATE yourself, ADAPT to the environment, be SPEEDY to the food source, and use your INSTINCT to tell you what is happening around you.

OK, then how good is it for job seekers?

It’s tough out there but there are jobs… you need to package yourself as a portfolio of specific and transferable skills, have a plan, know the one thing you are best at, cross-train, raise your profile, get out there… don’t assume it’s all bad, keep learning (change leadership, cross generational/gender/cultural/ethnic classes, negotiation), be vigilant on your own behalf, and build portable skills. Don’t be afraid to move sideways or take temporary assignments.

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