Every business in every industry is ultimately susceptible to a disruption, stagnation, and becoming obsolete. As technology progresses or sudden events occur, many new opportunities will arise, while leaving many people behind who cannot change with the times.  

For example, you might think that toilet paper manufacturing will never be a declining industry. But one of the things we learned from the pandemic is that a shortage of this very important daily commodity made us look to other options. Suddenly, there was a dramatic increase in the number of bidet attachments to existing toilets to support a very important hygienic activity. Perhaps someday, worrying about having enough toilet paper in the house will go by the way of the horse and buggy.

So, if you’re in an industry that is currently morphing, waning, or struggling to keep up with shifts in the economy, technology and culture, it’s understandable that you might also be worried about your future employment. 

For your reference, following below are the 10 fastest declining industries in the US and their rate of decline over the past five years.

  1. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Manufacturing -12.2%
  2. Sign & Banner Manufacturing Franchises – 11.7%
  3. Tunnel Construction – 11.0%
  4. Record Stores – 9.9%
  5. News Syndicates – 8.8%
  6. Data Recovery Services – 8.2%
  7. Paper Products Wholesaling – 7.8%
  8. Coffin & Casket Manufacturing – 6.8%
  9. DVD, Game & Video Rental – 6.1%
  10. Truck-Mounted Crane Manufacturing – 6.0%

The good news is that in most cases, changes don’t happen overnight, and in fact, you can usually read the tea leaves. If you anticipate that your career path may careen into a new direction, this may be an opportunity for some soul searching. 

First, if you hold an executive or senior position, such as Director of Global Credit, there’s probably a host of international companies that could use your professional and leadership expertise. If you’re further on down the totem pole, the competition might get a little more difficult, but one of the nice things about being in the credit risk management field is that every company selling on credit is always looking for a qualified credit professional.

Here are a few things you may want to consider should your industry be on the decline. 

Focus on transferable skills – Rather than highlight your title, certifications, and collection achievements, it may be better to emphasize what you are really capable of doing in terms of navigating the complexities of new business situations and human relations. For example: 

  • Are you good at taking abstract problems and turning them into a set of actions that can be successfully executed?
  • Can you bring people together from completely different backgrounds to work towards a common goal? 
  • Are you skilled at facilitating tough conversations and bringing a sense of harmony among all parties? 

It’s definitely worth your time to do some deep evaluating to understand how well you can perform the latter unquantifiable activities. 

Innovate from within – Instead of focusing on where you might go next, depending on your level within the company, the size of the organization and other factors, you could always think about how to contribute to helping your current employer become relevant. What this entails is actually moving outside of your credit risk management professional framework and developing a more entrepreneurial frame of mind. 

There are many instances were credit and collection managers have greatly contributed to supporting a new direction for their company. Each one of us can have interesting ideas on how to improve existing products, suggest alternate markets, and what kinds of sales channels may bear fruit. In fact, from time to time, those credit and collection managers who have worked closely with their sales colleagues have often transitioned to a sales role, learning the ropes of business development. 

Your industry, like all industries, may undergo radical change at some point. If it does, instead of lamenting the changes that are coming, face them head-on. Your career will depend on staying ahead of the changes and possibly, even creating them as well. 

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Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators, Inc.

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