THE CURRENT SITUATION
The current (2009) global economic position isn't too flash. With many countries in or nearing recession, companies are more likely to downsize and people are more likely to lose their job. Increasing your skill base not only improves your chances of keeping your current job, but it also improves your competitiveness if you look for another job. Recruiters are known to be pickier in times of recession and maximising your skills and knowledge can help you stand out of the crowd.
If you currently have a job you like you should be happy because many people wish they could say the same thing. If you are concerned about the real possibility of losing that job, reading up on the following topics will put you in a better position to hold onto your job.
On the other hand, if you are unfortunate enough to have lost a job already, don't let it get you down. Read up on these topics to help you stand out of the crowd when looking for a new job.
WHAT TO LEARN
For those who are looking at improving their skills and knowledge to gain an edge in the business world, I recommend learning the following topics.
It doesn't matter what type of job you have or want, you will need to know how to negotiate. People have a common misconception about negotiating, thinking it is only for union leaders or board room meetings. In fact, it is an everyday skill that everybody uses without even realising it. By reading up on this skill, you will not only have more control of your current situation, but you will have more control over your future situation. This is number one on the list because of the positive impact it can have on your career. It’s not just used to ask for a raise, it can be used to get more favourable hours, flexibility, increase possibility for promotion, etc.
Look at almost any job advertisement and under the list of skills required will almost definitely be 'good communication skills'. It is so important and yet, many people don't even bother to learn about it. Even reading one book on the subject puts you above the majority. So find a book on the topic and read about it. Then go out there and apply the information you have read. Recruiters put a very high emphasis on communication skills.
3. Body language
Most people either don't have a clue what body language is or they have an extremely limited understanding of it. This is why it is so important to learn. If you learn about body language, you will have a clear advantage over most people. Body language is the non-verbal language everybody uses without realising it. You can accurately read other people's signals and gestures to determine their thoughts and feelings. This is great for most jobs when you work with other people. Reading other people's body language can help you a great deal.
4. Business basics such as accounting, economics, management, marketing
Even having a basic understanding of these areas can put you at an advantage. Most people are happy with their limited understanding and don't care about learning other areas. Those who learn even the basics of other business areas have an advantage. If you have ever heard somebody use jargon and you were left scratching your head over it, you should learn more about the area. Not only will it make your life easier by understanding more, but other people will recognise and value your wide understanding.
5. Personal finance
This topic is more for your own personal needs rather than career need. Having a better understanding of personal finance can help you improve your situation so a recession won't have as much of an impact on you. Unfortunately for many, the recession has already hit hard. In either case by learning more on personal finance you are improving your future prospects. If you know the basics you should continue your learning by reading up on more advanced areas. Doesn't matter what your current situation is, you can improve your situation through learning. Even if you have a financial planner you go to, you should still read up on it. You may even find out that the principles are so basic you can do it yourself without any help from a financial planner.
THE FUTURE SITUATION
By reading up on these topics you put yourself in a better position for the future. If you read up on the basics of economics, you will find out that recessions (like the current one) will end. When the recession ends you will be better prepared for the next expansion (opposite of recession) and be at an advantage when looking to improve your career. While I can't guarantee that learning about these topics will be enough to get you a new job or keep your existing one, I am sure that it will help you to do so. Just remember, the more you learn the luckier you get.
Have a look at List of Book Reviews to find books I have reviewed on the topics above. If you can think of any other topics that are useful to gaining an advantage in a recession and could be added to this list, feel free to let me know by leaving a comment.