Believe it or not, there are actually some people who are taking a not-so-secret delight in the economic recession. Who? Employers.

They’re glorying in the fact that there are so few jobs available that they receive hundreds of applications for a single position. They’re thrilled that they can wring salary concessions out of their employees by holding the threat of job loss over their heads.  (British Airlines is even asking their workers to work for no money!) They’re throwing away benefits and paying less to new employees.

Why this is happening is obvious. Right now, employers hold all the cards. People who don’t have jobs will gladly do whatever it takes to get a job, while people who are still employed are keeping their heads down and working hard to keep their jobs.

It’s a simple question of supply and demand. Too many people for too few jobs.

For all of you out there who still have jobs, it’s very tempting to put off the personal branding right now. When your job is hanging by a thread, it makes a lot more sense to devote all your energy to keeping that job, right?

Branding or focusing on work

But this overabundance of workers is not going to last. Eventually, this country will come out of the recession. Then, two really interesting things are going to happen:

  • The Baby Boomers, who are now putting off retirement, are going to start retiring in droves. This won’t be a consistent, orderly retirement where only the people who turn 65 go every year. It will be a mass retirement of all the eligible people who put off their retirement for several years and are now jumping at the chance.
  • Companies will be losing a lot of leaders and experienced workers at one time. There are 77 million Baby Boomers. There are only 48 million Generation Xers, not enough to fill all the jobs vacated by the Baby Boomers. There are nearly 80 million Generation Yers who are now in (or will be entering) the job market over the next years.

Regardless of which age group you’re in, it’s obvious that when the Boomers begin to retire, there will be new (higher-up) jobs available.

Even if you have your nose to the grindstone right now and keeping your job is your top priority, you need to look ahead and start your personal branding now. As soon as the Baby Boomers start to go, there will be plenty of great jobs available (if you want them). If you can position yourself as one of the top people in your specialty, or even in your company, you will have a major head start over all the other applicants who only spent this downturn working hard just to maintain their job.

If moving up in the same company isn’t appealing to you and you’re only keeping your current job because it’s too hard to find another one right now, you should still be branding yourself like crazy right now. Because when companies start hiring again, you want to be ready to go after your dream job. And you’ll have a lot better chance of getting it if your brand is already in place and the people you want to hire you know who you are (and think great things about you).

Priorities for the long haul

This may be a time when employers hold all the cards and your top priority needs to be keeping the job you have. But, don’t forget that the tides will turn. The economy will recover, the Baby Boomers will start retiring, and employers won’t have all the power anymore. Then, the people who will really win big are the ones who have a very strong personal brand. They’ll be the ones getting early consideration for leadership positions, and the ones scooping up prime positions at their dream companies.

They’ll be the ones who can bargain for the best salaries and responsibilities, or demand the kind of work-life balance that they dream about.

Make sure that you’re one of them.


Katie Konrath writes about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped!” at