My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last 14 years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, average base salary is $250,000, and last year I placed several executives north of a million dollars.

Disclaimer: Only represent executives I know personally or by referral. No online job postings, no candidate databases, no unsolicited resumes. No disrespect intended!

Probably best known for my monthly gaming/casino newsletter that goes out to 5,000 executives. Who got hired, who got fired and all the latest gaming/casino news. If you want to keep up in real time, follow me @GodfatherWaym on Twitter. End of promo!

Who remembers 2008? In August 2008 I had 120 open jobs; two weeks later I had 10. The stock market fell apart, the housing market fell apart and unemployment rates skyrocketed to 10%. In 2012 we started a long slow climb back to the prosperity, and the last two years have been phenomenal. But there are clouds on the horizon.  The stock market is fading, job creation has topped and actually started to slide, and interest rates are on the rise.

There are several reasons the American economy (and job market) could crash. First, political turmoil. America has never been more divided, which is very concerning.  Second, record debt. US debt continues to climb at a staggering rate. . Third, International volatility. America is still fighting wars in the Middle East while rattling sabers with North Korea. The tax cuts and deregulation helped corporations, however they did little for individuals. Top earners pay 37% as opposed to the previous 39%, but keep in mind just a few years earlier it was 34%.

I’ll never forget a Recruiter telling me in 2004, “Mark, everything is great…today.  But one day the pendulum will swing.  What goes up, must come down.  All the people that didn’t return your phone call, all the executives that dismissed you and treated you like dirt, they will all be sending you resumes and calling your cell phone.”  In August 2008 that is EXACTLY what happened.  This article is my counsel for what to do NOW to weather the storm.  How to maximize your opportunities during tough times, and set yourself up for success. Economies go up; economies go down. The job apocalypse is on the horizon.

Dig the Well Before You Need a Drink – My #1 career tip! When you need a job, where does it come from? Well, 85% comes from your professional network (referrals), 10% from Executive Recruiters and the last 5% from a variety of sources. You must, must, must have a strong professional network and be friendly with one to three Executive Recruiters. If you stick your head in the sand like an Ostrich and only come up once every three to five years when you are terminated and unemployed, no one is going to bail you out. You MUST dig the well before you need a drink. You MUST build the bridge before you need to cross the river. Stay in touch with your peers; build professional relationships with one to three Executive Recruiters.

Knowledge is POWER – My #2 career tip. Years ago I started a newsletter for my clients. Industry news and all the latest executive moves (who got hired; who got fired). Distribution is now up to 5,000 executives. So here is the interesting part. At the Manager level 50% read it, Director level is 60%, VP level is 75% and “C” level: 90%. Do you see the pattern? The more senior the executive, the more interested they are in what’s going on with their peers and in the industry. During the job apocalypse, all the bad hiring decisions of the last few years stick out like a sore thumb, and those executives are the first to be laid off.  You know who survives?  Those that are industry experts and have invested in continuous education.  Number of executives that “opted out” of my newsletter, then sent me a resume when they were terminated a year laster? Fifty! Sorry, once you opt out…you are OUT. No disrespect intended. Stay plugged in to your peers and industry! Knowledge is power.

Does Not Play Well with Others – Five jobs in five years is a tough sell for a Headhunter. “Oh, I can explain all that.” I’m sure you can, but as an Executive Recruiter, I can’t sell it. And to the hiring company it screams I DON’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Not judging. Not criticizing. Not trying to offend anyone.  My best advice is to find someplace you like…and stay there.  During the job apocalypse, last in is first out.  Those with short tenure are the first to be laid off.  Start working on job stability TODAY, and as your Mom used to say, “Play well with others.”

Burning Bridges – The best way to leave is a friendly wave on the way out. There is no upside to burning bridges, or bad mouthing your former company/boss. As Walt Disney said, “It’s a small, small world.” I can’t count the number of times I had highly accomplished executives get passed over for interviews because a former colleague submarined them. Not because they were not brilliant or talented; they just got sideways with too many people. Be grateful and appreciative; never burn bridges on the way out.

Recruiters Get Candidates for Job, NOT Jobs for Candidates – The best advice I can give you on Headhunters? Your job crisis is not their priority. Executive Recruiters only get paid if they place candidates in jobs, so they are laser focused on filling open positions, not figuring out your career dilemma. Personally, if the candidate is a former client, they are going to get more of my attention. Why? Because I’m the most loyal person you ever met.  But I’m not like most Executive Recruiters.  I own the business.  I don’t have a “quota.” I don’t have a Boss.  On the other hand, if a CEO candidate has never supported my business or charity work, my recommendation is that they work with a Recruiter they know personally. Don’t expect Recruiters to drop everything and help you – that is not a reasonable expectation.

Accepting a Counter-Offers – Worst job strategy ever. I would venture to say that 100% of the executives that take a counter-offer are terminated within twelve months. So I’m going to get a few hate mails from people saying, “I took a counter and worked out beautifully!” Well, one in a ten million people also hit the lottery. If you think your company wants to be leveraged for an increase in salary, you are sadly mistaken. If the economy tanks, you will be the first person out the door. Never, ever take a counter-offer.

Getting over Your Skis – Executives get promoted to the level of their incompetence. Just because you are a great Director, that does not make you a great VP. You may be an awesome VP, but that does not make you a CEO. Here is a situation I see far too frequently. Executives that have a huge impression of themselves, somehow weasel their way into a high level job they are not qualified for, and then get terminated in less than a year. Now they have REAL trouble because they think they deserve that job and compensation, so they sit on the beach for two years trying to replicate it. The story usually ends with them at a “B” company in a lower role making half the money. In the job apocalypse, know your limitations and be reasonable about compensation.