Something to fall back on

Watching the news over the past few days, I’ve found it hard to raise a smile. The litany of job losses is disturbing – 2,500 jobs to go at Corus, 750 at Ulster Bank, and Barratts and Priceless Shoes have gone into administration too. Cookson Engineering, Starbucks and AOL are also looking to cut jobs.

My mother tells me that her local shopping centre looks empty now that so many stores have closed, full of white-washed shops and closing down sales. And you can’t but sympathise with Rotherham’s situation. It’s being hit by a double whammy – job losses not only from Corus but also from Burberry.

One of DJ’s relatives who lives in a copper town in Africa rang at the weekend. There are rumours that the mining operation there could be shut down altogether because of the credit crunch. This would be a total catastrophe for the inhabitants. There’s nothing else there in terms of employment and little in the way of benefits for the unemployed. What’s more, all the service industries that cater to the mine workers and their families will be hit if this happens. The town could quite literally die.

For a city to rely heavily on one or two industries for employment can be disastrous. When the main industry dies, then so do the service industries that support it – the company’s suppliers, the sandwich bars and restaurants catering to the workers, the dry cleaning firms, etc. all stay afloat on trade from the business.

When I used to analyse companies for a living, it was always drummed into us how important it is for them to diversify – that is, a company shouldn’t be earning all its money from one source or customer in case that source dries up.

And it’s struck me this week that perhaps it’s also true on a personal level. Maybe to survive a recession you shouldn’t be too much of a specialist in one career area. Instead maybe you should have a second string to your bow, designed to emerge in times of trouble. Something else you can fall back on.

For a few years I did secretarial work in the media industry before the journalism took off. And it’s always stayed with me that if things went awry, maybe I could fall back on those skills. I’ve also been meaning to do more with my jewellery making – it’s just finding the time. One of DJ’s relatives, an engineer, ran a successful carpentry business in his spare time. And my Dad, honing in on his talent for driving, retrained as a London taxi driver in his spare time years ago while still working as a sales rep.

But, then again, it’s not easy to be that flexible if you’ve worked in the same industry for many years, or if you’re struggling to raise a young family or don’t have the money or time to retrain. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Do you have a second string to your bow? Do you moonlight in another industry besides that of your day job?

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5 Responses to Something to fall back on

  1. Christine says:

    Certainly having a second string to your bow helps. My first set of training a million years ago out of school was in a job which no longer exists as satellite technology has taken over so much of the weather service and I was a very lowly minion. I worked on factory lines for a period but there are no longer a lot of such jobs as many of them have been taken over by computerised systems. I retrained as a secretary in the days when there were schemes that paid you to go to college for a year but was not the greatest success – I\’m a solid administrator in a field where there is now an oversupply. If you have shorthand at a very good speed then you have more chance of PA but nowadays a PA needs a lot of other skills besides secretarial and being able to block the boss\’s door. Anyway I went back to gardening after a period temping but that came to an end after some fifteen years. The only skill I had was the ability to use a computer in the days when there were few enough of us who could do more than word process (write letters) on it. That kept me in work through the dotcom boom and for a period thereafter but now there are dozens of computer users coming out of school and college. It\’s a case of having skills and being able to stay one step ahead of everyone else so that you are always that bit more skilled so in short supply. The only people who are in short supply at the moment are carers. Whether you will find that people want jewellery in the current climate is another matter – we are a holiday area here and over supplied with crafts people of all sorts. I suspect that not all of them make a living at it. Your most useful line of country would be in learning to grow vegetables and keep hens, to preserve the produce (bottled and pickled rather than frozen), make jams, bread and pickles, learn to scour the hedgerows for produce and also in seeing if you can at least learn to mend your own clothes. These are all skills that will enable you to extend whatever money you have.

  2. Tom says:

    Excellent idea to have multiple skills especially if one is something people can\’t do witout or outsource like a plumber.

  3. Pete says:

    If AOL are shedding jobs I just hope its the technical support division in India. Impossible to understand and largely inaccurate advise – no wonder profits are down!As for diversifying – some might say that businesses obsession with diversification has been one of the many factors in the economic downturn, as in my humble opinion it has only served to dilute the levels of qualities delivered by a lot of companies in all disciplines – you simply can\’t be great at everything!

  4. susan says:

    When I began living frugally, I stopped working 6 and 7 days a week and cut back to two or three max….by many standards I suppose I would be considered skint..but I value the free time I have made for myself and learning to live on less money has been a very interesting exercise. So, my friends, if you want to cope with the recession, look at your lifestyle…..what do you pay for that you don\’t really need….newspapers or magazines that are free to view online?…think about it…..gym fees…how often do you go?… what about a nice walk in the country or a run instead..the fresh air will do you good… you pay the milkman, the window cleaner?….which broadband package, tv package, enerygy supplier?…check them out, you could save a packet…car insurance…don\’t just pay the renewal……if you have time, you can buy fresh foods and actually cook!!!! yes save money and get a health benefit! Learn to look at life in a different way, be happy with what you have achieved and pat yourself on the back ocassionally…..don\’t always chase after the next step in your great scheme..take a bit of time out for a while and enjoy what you have already achieved, don\’t waste your chance of happiness chasing constantly after the new car or the bigger screen or the latest \’must have\’…what is it anyway???? What label is on your T-shirt? Does it matter…in fact, conforming to \’designer label\’ makes you a bit of a clone…get creative, design your own stuff if you really want to be different…..many status symbols are in the mind….educate your mind and learn to enjoy life…accept we can\’t all be \’celebs\’ we can\’t all have footballers\’ wages…..I have been able to spend my time indulging myself in my hobbies…one of them being painting, and hey! I even sell a few!

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