Depression to Recession: How Companies Are Getting By

    Today, in the 21st century, the Great Depression is generally used to illustrate how far the world’s economy can decline.  It was not only the United States that suffered.  All countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, India, North and South America suffered.  The calamity of the First World War depleted and left bankrupt Germany, left France and England crippled and set the stage for what would eventually evolve into The Second World War – the greatest and most terrible war the world has ever seen.  The domino effect was felt everywhere – for example, Latin America had invested heavily in U.S. commodities and exports.  When these businesses collapsed, Latin American countries found themselves scrambling to recover and eventually collapsed also.


If you are in your 30s or early 40s then you may have a living grandparent or grandparents that remember growing up during the Great Depression.  My grandmother, who is 84 years young, can remember clearly going without and consolidating to make ends meet – and her family, her town, her area in northern New Jersey was relatively unaffected.  Her father, my great-grandfather, had emigrated from Sweden in 1917 only to be sent right back to Europe in time for the First World War.  He came home and worked at the Ford Motor Company straight through The Great Depression and then stayed on to help the new war effort in the late 1930s as Ford switched its focus to military vehicles, mostly to be lend-leased to Britain and The Soviet Union.  Of course, the period after World War Two is known as America’s Golden Age – yes, civil liberties were almost non-existent for non-whites and racism was terrible but this refers to technology advances, prosperity and a sense of national pride we haven’t had since probably The Vietnam War.


The way most families coped during The Great Depression was “make do with what you already have and make that last.”  These Depression-era children, of whom so many would be forced to grow up quickly in war, carried these values with them and tried to impart them to their own families.  The reason they failed is because they were teaching restraint and discipline during a new era of plenty, when everyone had work and food and medical care and a car.  Their values had worked well to help them survive their childhood but did not apply to this new world of surplus.


It is, therefore, interesting to see that this Depression-era mentality emerging in today’s small and large businesses.  The web manager of a medium-sized New Jersey printing company explained to me, when asked if he needed additional staff, that they were “making it work with the resources they have.”  This made an impression on me and, in fact, led to this article.  It is true, though – many companies are simply dealing with the staff and resources that they have.  When they must, they reach out for consultants or employees – which Staff I.T. can provide quickly and painlessly 🙂 – but for the most part try to make their way with the staff they have on hand.


It is because of this new/old mindset that consultants, especially I.T. consultants, must bear this in mind and be as marketable as they possibly can be.  If you can, try to market yourself as a progressive candidate that has several areas of expertise.  If you are a developer, for example, but have a background in database migration or knowledge of SQL then market that.  A growing trend among companies that hire consultants is to bring on board those consultants who are talented in many areas – it is like having two or three consultants for the price of one.  If you are good then chances are you will be invited to stay on full-time!  You become an asset to them.  This gives you leverage when it comes time for salary negotiation and gives you a far greater level of job security because the last thing they want is to lose you.


It is therefore doubly important that you work through a staffing agency (like Staff IT ) when possible.  A staffing agency can represent you and secure the very best terms for you, whether you are working as a consultant, in a “temp to perm” situation or are being hired permanently.  Unlike the want ads in the classifieds or even websites like Careerbuilder, staffing agencies tend to have many clients with needs and, if a home is not found with one client, a home is often found with another.  This increases your chances of landing a great job so that you do not have to “make do with what you have.”


Good luck!

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