Navigating your marketing career through a crisis

One of the facts of working life is that the economy will go up and down, and there’s very little you can do about it. Nearly one in 10 marketers (9%) have been made redundant during the coronavirus outbreak. Over 300,000 businesses fail each year. Right now the redundancy rate is through the roof, at levels we haven’t seen since the credit crunch.

On top of economic crises, you will also go through a personal crisis at some point: break ups, accidents, bereavements, it happens to all of us. Going through a personal crisis and balancing work on top of it is rough.

I am only 12 years into my career, and I have already experienced:

  • Graduated as the credit crunch hit
  • Building a career in a recession
  • Working with public sector customers just after the 2010 election and subsequent cuts
  • Two break ups
  • Sudden and unexpected redundancy
  • Resigning from my job in a pandemic
  • Countless episodes of burnout

I can’t say it gets any easier, but I learn from each crisis and I know what I need to get through it. The economy goes in cycles, as do our lives. What’s right for you at 25 won’t be right for you at 35. Your priorities change.

Just like you would expect a business to have a crisis management plan, you need one too. This involves building your resilience, your support network and your back up plan. So here’s my advice, from someone who’s been there, many times.

Be prepared for the unexpected

You never know what’s around the corner. Regularly update your CV, portfolio, interview/pitch technique and Linkedin profile. Connect with potential employers and clients on LinkedIn, even when you’re not looking for the next thing. Monitor the job market to see what’s going on. Get to know recruiters. A crisis could mean you have to leave your job or you suddenly lose all your clients. This can happen with very little notice.

Protect your health

A crisis will take its toll on your mental and physical health and there are steps you can take to keep this to a minimum. And it mostly comes down to this: you’ll never look back and wish you worked more. Your health comes first.

Take your holiday time, take your compassionate leave, don’t feel pressured into working extra hours. If your employer or client is in trouble, it’s tempting to do everything you can to help. If you are in this position, take a step back to evaluate the impact of this extra work. Are they compensating you fairly? In the words of the great Lizzo: is the juice worth the squeeze?

Take time out

Crises are almost always due to external factors, so it’s important to have your own thing that no one can take away from you to give you a sense of control. Find something for you which is just yours and protect this time. This could be a sport, a hobby, a book club — whatever helps you to escape.

After I was made redundant, I started aerial circus classes, a long-time dream. More than three years later, it’s a huge part of my life and has absolutely nothing to do with marketing.

Remember the big picture

A crisis will force you to review your life choices, and I say, lean into this. Have you worked yourself into the ground for an awful boss who made you redundant? Did your employer go out of business leaving you with no salary and no commission? Did a PR crisis spiral wildly out of your control and now you hate marketing? What have you learnt from this? And what will you do differently in future?

Months and years from now, you will feel very changed. When it’s fresh, a crisis magnifies everything. It feels awful. But in the grand scheme of things, it will pass. Take the lessons and move on.

Take the next step

Moving on from a crisis is like leaving a bad relationship. Once you have moved on and you look back, you realise that this was a trauma. It can take months or years to feel better about the situation. But you will feel better about it.

It took me over a year to move on from sudden and unexpected redundancy. That year was full of pain and resentment. It was the worst point of my career. It’s now several years ago, and I have learnt so much and it barely occupies my mind.

Once you have had time to work through a crisis, you will learn about what kind of employer you want to work for (if at all!). You will learn what kind of environment you want to work in, what kind of work you want to do. If you’re like me, it’s a reminder to get your finances in order and you need a fuck off fund.

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Branch out and grow your marketing career. For in-house, agency and freelance marketers. By Into The Woods Marketing.

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Veronica Wood Querales

Veronica Wood Querales

Writing about marketing, careers and freelance life • Marketing consultant and mentor • intothewoodsmarketing.com

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