HANDLING LEAN TIMES! Brothers, let’s start off our time together this month with a quick illustration. The leader of a mighty country receives a warning from a man of color with little in the way of reputation. The country is going to have seven years of hilarious prosperity, followed by seven years of unbearable economic reversal. Now, this leader had consulted all of his economic advisors, Wall Street wizards, and military experts. They did not have such insight. This man did…and the leader took the steps to put this man’s plan into motion. Who was this man of color who saved a mighty nation? Joseph. You can read the entire story in the Book of Genesis. Brothers, men of color have ALWAYS come through when America has hit hard times. Even in those instances where America did NOT want us to participate, nor expected us to have much in the way of talents, skills, and abilities to help this land through the lean times, men of color have TAKEN many a country back to a right road. We have had the seven years of plenty. Those years--for some--were 1993 to 2000. If you were in the High Tech sector, or the corner office as a supervisor or manager, you could bring home a big paycheck. Now, we are facing the seven years of lean. Sure, books have been cooked, and companies have folded. However, we’re going to talk about how YOU can thrive in lean times. BUT FIRST--TAKE A WALK WITH ME: If you want to know the direction a country is heading, you study three things…its entertainment, its advertising and its classrooms. So, let’s take a quick trip down these three paths. *If you study the offerings of BET, MTV, and other entertainment fare, you quickly discover that the educated person is shunned. Teachers are regarded as stupid, and authority figures regarded as ‘standing in the way of a young person’s fun’. That is, unless they are ‘fronting’ for some PC cause like abortion, sexual promiscuity, and homosexuality. Then the authority figures are greeted as ‘heroes’ and ‘heroines’. If you ever wanted to see the case of inmates running the asylum, a Rap or Rock video is your one-way ticket to a paradise of ignorance! *If you study the world of advertising, everyone is having a great time--except MEN! We are either portrayed as being stupid, sports-hungry, skirt-chasing, beer-or-liquor-drinking FOOLS. Sadly, MANY of the ads that we see on the small screen, or hear on the radio, are written by men who have only one thing on their mind--your wallet! They are hoping that you ‘buy’ into their ‘lies’, in order to keep the writers, directors, and ad execs employed. *If you study the classroom, our young brothers, in a lot of cases, have made the conscious decision that an education does NOT matter. They are dropping out of, or being kicked out of schools by the busload. And, to make matters worse, many parents have been ‘lied’ to about their children being diagnosed as being ‘Learning Disabled’. A new study has found that LD, ADHD, and EH kids are worth big money to school corporations. About $400 to $1,000 per child, per school corporation, EACH year. Thus, some 30 percent of LD kids (according to the study) have been misdiagnosed. Parents don’t bother to get a ‘second’ opinion. WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH ME? The reason why I mentioned these three areas is simple. In lean times, you have to disregard the ‘noise’ from the first two areas, and FOCUS. F= Forget O= Outside C= Confusing U= Unnecessary S= Stuff Employment experts have stated, in print or verbally, when times get tough one must CUT DOWN on their entertainment or advertising consumption. IF you happen to be unemployed--or underemployed--entertainment and advertising will ‘sap’ your desire to find a job. In lean times, having A job is better than NOT having a job. Now, let me throw this in. Whether you are a young man, or an older man, a man WITH an education has the tools to ‘ride out’ changing economic storms. Thus, brothers, some of us may have to make the trip back to the schoolhouse to secure the proper tools to be competitive. If you are a ‘drop out’, then you are going to have to be a ‘drop in’. Night school, a GED program, or finishing your college undergraduate/graduate degree is not a ‘luxury’ but a ‘necessity’. If you have noticed, many, many, many college and university classrooms are FULL and have waiting lists, as the wise are retooling their education skills to handle a shifting economic picture. NEXT, A COURSE IN SIMPLE ECONOMICS: If you have been laid off, downsized, terminated, or had your company fold, and are out looking for another job, you have to focus on two terms: luxury vs. necessity. Let me provide a few examples: *Electricity is a necessity. DSS is a luxury. *Paying cash is a necessity. Credit is a luxury. *Transportation that works is a necessity. A Lexus is a luxury. *Food is a necessity. Dining out is a luxury. *Housing is a necessity. Living in a Penthouse is a luxury. In lean times, if you have planned ahead, you will be working to kill off any outstanding debts. Your economic ship will sail better, and farther, by tossing debts and luxuries over the side. When the good times come back, the luxuries may come back--but not the debt! BACKGROUND CHECKS EXPANDED: After watching a few news stories and reading a few business publications, it is imperative to note that many companies are resurrecting tougher background checks on new--and current--employees. Sometimes, these checks are going back into your life as a teenager! If you have a checkered past as a teen, make sure that you have gone back to the proper juvenile authorities to make sure that your record has been expunged…or wiped off the books. Here are a few other tips: *If you are a Christian, and not just a ‘church visitor’, you have an added edge called ‘fasting and prayer’! Sometimes, you have to lose a job to get THE opportunity, that blessing the Lord has wanted you to pick up. Name it and Claim it does NOT work. Brother, you still have to fill out the applications and study your Word--and WAIT. *Also for Christians--don’t neglect to pay your tithes and offerings! If you claim to trust God in the times of plenty, you have to STILL trust Him when the lean times hit! The command is still ten percent, off the top, of your GROSS income…NOT the net! This is for those who are disciplined, dedicated, and committed to the cause of Christ. *Never lie on a job application! If you have had problems, make sure that you and the potential employer have talked about them well before your application has been accepted. *Don't neglect your mental, emotional, physical, or relationship areas of your life. Take time to laugh, to build strong relationships with those around you, to help someone else who may be down. Many a job lead and employment opportunity have been won by those who have not forgotten these particular areas. *While adult criminal records can’t be expunged, they can be ‘neutralized’ IF you have been living life on the right side of the street, crime free, since you had your taste of crime. There are more and more federal and state grants available to get ex-offenders into jobs. Check your local probation or parole office for more information. *Network, network, NETWORK! Be honest about your employment search to those friends and acquaintances that can help you find/secure employment. Be warned though--you will have to return the favor IF someone helps you. *Sharpen your interview skills, your resume, your telephone skills, and your work ethic, and your manners. Also, don’t forget to wear the right clothing to interviews. Wear, and speak, how you want at HOME. Don’t go to any job interview looking like you stepped off the set of a Rap video. *Be prepared to MOVE. Brothers, sometimes the best opportunities are outside of our comfort zone. There is a difference between thinking the brook has dried up, and KNOWING it has dried up. It may be time to call the U Haul man, and move to greener pastures. *Lastly, remember this--if your wife is working, and you are searching, be thankful for this fact. Envy is NOT needed when it is time to get back into the job game. YOU WILL BE EMPLOYED AGAIN: Take it from a brother who has been there on the unemployment line with you. You will be hired and working again! Yes, you may have to do a ‘slide’ into a job that may be far from your professional goals. However, if you have the education in place, have the skills that an employer is looking for, have a clean background, and have a strong work ethic, your employability increases. If you have areas to clean up, then clean them up. Some whine and cry about how ‘tough’ the times are. Some make excuses as to which administration or political party is at fault for the economic times that we face. Some others try to make it matter of high unemployment among us being a matter of racism. While some of the above may be true…it’s not going to help you land a new job. I mentioned in my illustration at the very beginning of my column, that the leader had a wise counselor who walked him through the lean times that his nation would be facing. It’s the same for a household…wise counselors are worth listening to, and following their advice. It’s not as if God--through the Bible--didn’t let us know that lean times would be coming. The same God that created the heavens and the earth is concerned about your employment status. As one wise, older man once told me: “A setback is a setup for a comeback!” The lean times are a test of your character, brothers. How you pass the test determines how far you will go--when the times of plenty return. Beating your chest and posting nasty emails about what some administration is--or is not doing is not going to get you out of the state you are in. Life happens. Sometimes, the righteous come up short…but never for very long. MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A monthly, syndicated column written for men, from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. Emails welcome to [email protected]. ©2003 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications (10).