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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