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August 30, 2010
Six Signs the Recession Is Ramming Us Once More
This is my 40th column for Talent Zoo, and they’ve been very supportive of my outrageous rants for the last three years. With that said, the following post is not a rant. Damn it, it's not! It's a reintroduction to something you knew in 2009 all too well: The Great Recession.

People tried to tell us it was over. I, like you, was skeptical. Here is a look at how to recognize that we are back in the throes of a tough time, when we need to rely on our own instincts. What follows is information that might help you get through tough times.

Deep breath.

Most of us are going to make it just fine when this is over -- even if it takes years. And incidentally, you should be proud of each of your gray hairs, earned by stress and success.

The best indicators of The Recession That Would Not Depart? I see them daily, especially as I lead RLM Public Relations  through this, dare I say it, quagmire.

1.) Clients say they need to stop paying for services for budgetary reasons, but they request a pass from the agreement terms. Their idea: “We thought you would want to help us.”

2.) A so-called friend (SCF) says please do a presentation/in-person project/bit of work they don't want to do -- which will take lots of your time -- for free because “it'll be good for you.” Really? Oh, and I doubt the SCF says please either.

3.) When you ask someone how he or she is doing, this person changes the subject, and you both laugh.

4.) You read a post like this and nod like a bobblehead doll. When you woke up to this recently, no one around you wanted to admit it! Now you say, "Damn it, I was right."

5.) Having insufficient funds suddenly is neither painful nor shocking. You can't complain because everyone has these pains. What can you do? Do you have un-payable bills? Send them back with a let-me-tell-you-why note -- respectful but explanatory. (Writing thoughtful notes about your money woes will get a response that'll surprise you. Communication is key in recessionary times.)

6.) A regular gig is less accessible and interesting. You start to wonder how you can get paid for your honed skills -- whether it be "migrant working" (term for a worker freelancing for a company that once paid you a salary), setting up shop and making it official via incorporation or LLC, or picking up the killer app (the telephone) and asking everyone you know what they have.

Flexibility is key during this period. Don’t be quick to say no to anything.

Doing whatever is necessary is how previous societies made it through tougher times than this. Folks didn't think of themselves as being on the hunt for a job. 2010 and 2011 will be "survival of the fittest." Man, that Darwin and Spencer knew their you-know-what.

Being fit means "being in the know" about topics way outside your field so you can jump in and help where others are ignorant. That's how you earn money where others fail: You are so "in" on what's happening that people who interview you for freelance jobs really want to spend time with you.

This is self-promotional and worthwhile. That's what my book "2011" is about. If you are broke and write me, I'll just send you the chapters you need to read! I also highly recommend Sally Hogshead's "Fascinate" for more on how to "fascinate" others.

In tough times, Americans stop focusing on the trivial like the JetBlue guy, Levi Johnston, and the girls who ran from the Playboy house. We get through with nonstop focus and undistracted concentration. A constant discussion of what's unimportant is problematic in tough times, and it explains why the celebrity magazines are down more than 10 percent. (Good riddance, In Touch Weekly!)

A recession brings out the best in people. Did you know that Aug. 25 was the National Day of Action to help the folks most hurt by the BP disaster? That day my friend Geoff Livingston (co-host of my weekly podcast "The El Show") and I co-hosted a benefit in New York at the Village Pourhouse (they donated the place and 15 percent of the bar total). This was for families who lost money in the BP disaster.

If you would like to help, here's a link to donate: http://citizeneffect.org/projects/citizengulf_day_of_action.

Besides Geoff, I brought a bunch of special guests like social media stars and a speaker: Erik Proulx, the man behind the movie about layoffs and how to make them into "Lemonade." Everyone received copies of my book, "Full Frontal PR," and Livingston's "Now Is Gone." Plus, we handed out Proulx DVDs to the first 100 who came skipping through the door.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. Hey, do you think Justin Timberlake will do a song called "RecessionBack?" Just asking.

Comments, questions, or compliments? Tweet @laermer. Let's get this party stopped!

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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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