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Becoming a Strong Leader and Shifting Fast in a Chaotic Job Market

It’s 2023…we made it! Anybody else feel like 2020 – 2023 was kind of a blur?? It has been a sh*t show, let’s be honest with each other. We’ve had volatility in every aspect of our lives, from super highs to deep lows. From COVID to war to political disarray to stock market highs to inflation lows to job market on fire to layoffs and a possible recession…I feel like a ping pong ball going back and forth with emotions.

Each one of us has a choice to be a leader during times like these. Doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live or the color of your skin, we each are leaders. The question is how resilient are you? How will you stand out when times get tough in the job market? Do you have a positive mindset or going to play victim?

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

John C. Maxwell

During these chaotic times when you may be worried about losing your job or clients, you have the choice to be a strong leader, to lean in, do the work, and trust yourself to get through anything.

A look at the Current Job Market 

The sands of the job market are constantly shifting, and unfortunately at the moment, it’s not in the favor of employees. In November 2022, U.S. employers cut 76,835 jobs (Trading Economics). DoorDash laid off 1,250 corporate workers — or 6% of its workforce (NPR). Amazon announced that it’s laying off 1% of its entire global workforce, or up to 3% of its corporate team (Mondo). 

As 2023 begins, economic data out this week will offer a look at how the economy ended 2022 and whether the job market is finally bowing to slower growth and higher interest rates. Tomorrow, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the jobs openings numbers for November, with expectations that there were 10 million positions open compared to 10.3 million in October. The number peaked at 11.9 million in March of last year.

The dreaded 2023 recession hasn’t even hit yet, but people are already fearing that their company will hop on the downsizing bandwagon soon enough. With companies like Blue Apron, Adobe, and BuzzFeed all restructuring in the coming year, it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen the last of mass layoffs. Ouch. 

2023 Companies could be downsizing

Naturally, during these uncertain times, you want to know what to do to protect yourself.  I wish there was a simple answer I could offer here, but since we all have different skills, networks, and opportunities, the reality is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach. If you work for someone else vs working for yourself, there are very different strategies to ensure you’re financial and career safety.

What I can share is some advice from my personal experience as a former employee at Walton Isaacson, Microsoft and Gartner and now a Co-Owner and CMO of StandOut Authority. If you want to give yourself the greatest chance of career growth, or at the very least stability, amidst mass layoffs and cutbacks, I suggest strengthening your leadership skills. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Strong Leader? 

There’s a big misconception that leadership is only for those in upper management. I don’t think this is the case at all. Every single person has the choice to be a leader in the workplace. It doesn’t matter what your role is, or where you work for that matter.  

Opportunities to lead show up in the day-to-day activities in the workplace – listening, interacting with colleagues, supporting others in their work, and acting in a way that inspires people to move forward together, rather than trying to take people down. 

Leadership isn’t  a race to the top and it doesn’t always come with a big fancy title — it’s a set of actions and beliefs that YOU embody.  Great leaders possess qualities like: empathy, active listening, communication, conflict resolution and transparency.

Good Leader

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Leadership skills take time to develop, and most leaders are constantly fine-tuning their skills. That’s the beauty of it. There’s also some really bad leadership like Elon Musk. His Twitter takeover has resulted in 3,500 people being laid-off, downsizing Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters by two-thirds, and he’s left many of the remaining employees with the ultimatum of being out of a job or working long, intense hours. Many believe his leadership tactics are downright oppressive and not at all in the best interest of moving the company forward or taking care of his employees. He even asked Twitter if he should step down (very strange to do if you ask me) and 57% said yes!

Elon Musk Twitter Poll

Being a strong leader isn’t about knowing all the answers. It is about vulnerability, empathy and putting the interests of your team, company, and customers front and center. It’s not easy to balance what your team needs, profitability and customer desires, and tough decisions always have to be made that people won’t agree with. But good leaders take steps to hear other people, learn from their experiences, and be someone others can turn to. Their transparency and commitment are their greatest assets. 

So how can you start grow strong leadership skills and make sure you can shift fast in a chaotic economy and job market?

How to Shift Fast in a Chaotic Job Market 

As you learn to lead in a way that is authentic to you, you’ll have to be ready for any and all changes that come your way…because they always do! Let’s face it, none of us wants to be that person scrambling to find a job. We all fear being overly confident, only to be let go over a Zoom call.  

If you’re an employee on a team, whether entry-level, freelance or mid-management, the best thing you can do is go beyond your manager’s expectations and show your company why you’re valuable AND always be networking.  

➡️ Showcase your progress and achievements, especially if you work remotely. Keep notes on your successes, and share them in team meetings or 1:1 calls with your boss. You don’t have to brag — but you do have to demonstrate that your work leads to results. 

➡️ Do more than what’s expected of you. No one gets anywhere by doing the bare minimum. If you’ve gotten too comfortable in your position, your output may have started to slack. Notice where you’re doing “just enough,” and push yourself to go above and beyond; show your employer that you’re dedicated and even take on stretch projects. 

➡️ Demonstrate the value you bring by thinking outside the box. Brainstorm and share ideas or projects that you think will support the business. Especially during challenging times, innovation can often be a light at the end of the tunnel.   

➡️ Define Your Personal Brand and Keep Your LinkedIn Up to Date. While you may be the most dedicated employee, don’t put yourself in a situation where you are laid off and have nowhere to turn. Update your profile and be active on LinkedIn every day – build your connections and networks and engage with posts. If you haven’t already, start building an online presence now!

For upper management and executives, now is the time to be open and honest with your team. Your transparency can give them confidence during periods of uncertainty.

➡️ Check-in with people, ask them how they’re doing, and make sure you are continually aligning goals and reiterating expectations. 

➡️ And most of all, lead by example and with empathy. People will remember how you make them feel during this time more than anything. And right now, people need to feel even a little semblance of job security. 

What’s leadership mean to you? How have you handled shifts in the job market? Let me know in the comments below 👇 

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How To Inspire Our Workplace Culture Through Leadership and Technology 

Join Joshua B. Lee and I in our first event of the year that’s a FIRESIDE CHAT with BlueJeans by Verizon‘s Vice President of Product and Growth Marketing Zachary Bosin on January 25th 10amCST. 

We’ll be discussing the shifting tides of workplace culture in 2023, what to expect, and how to navigate all the big changes ahead (whether you’re an employee or a manager). 

Click here to sign up today so you don’t miss this insightful discussion! 

How to Inspire Our Workplace Culture through Leadership and Technology