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How to Find a Job in a Weak Economy

March 18, 2009 10:20 AM
by Shannon Firth
With recent and imminent layoffs casting ominous shadows, “free agents” must work even harder in the hunt for their next position.

Times Are Tough, But Jobs Are Out There

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In February, 2009, the nation's unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent, the highest it has been in 25 years. The rate of unemployment has been steadily increasing; it rose from 7.6 percent in January, CNN Money reported. Since September, 3.3 million jobs have been lost.

In these conditions, finding a job becomes a challenge for even the most capable employee. Following the advice of experts and others who have survived a job loss can transform this setback into an unexpected blessing.

Nicholas Nigro, author of “No Job? No Prob!: How to Pay Your Bills, Feed Your Mind, and Have a Blast When You’re Out of Work,” told The New York Times that keeping a healthy mindset is vital to surviving a job loss: “If … you regard your joblessness as a mere life pothole … you’ll find yourself in the enviable position of total control of your situation.” Likewise, Nigro added, if you consider the loss an overwhelming defeat, you’re likely to turn the situation into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sherri Edwards, owner of Resource Maximizer, a career consulting firm, told ABC News that anyone who has lost their job should allow themselves some time to deal with the aftershock, but not too much. It’s important to set an absolute “start date” for the job hunt, not more than two weeks away. In the meantime, spend one hour a day compiling a list of companies and careers that appeal to you, and professionals you should contact.

Fred Whelan and Gladys Stone, writing on The Huffington Post, suggest that when thinking about the next job, don’t limit yourself to one industry.

“Say, for example, you have been working in financial services for most of your career and are looking for a new job. Rather than limiting yourself to other financial services companies, focus on the functional area of your job which could be applied elsewhere,” they wrote.

You can also take your experience and apply it in a different way. “Another option is to leverage your industry knowledge into a new field, like financial consulting or teaching a finance course at a college,” they said.

Once you’ve reached your “start date,” it’s important to hold yourself accountable for every hour of your time, just as an employer would. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking the first temp job you can. Taking classes, doing volunteer work and doing consulting work are all good ways to broaden your mind as well as your social skills and your resume. If there’s a gap in your employment history, Edwards tells ABC, consider how it can be an asset to a potential employer.

“If you’ve been off building schools in Third World villages since 2007 … you probably have all sorts of bootstrapping, communication and decision-making skills an employer will find attractive,” she said.

After crafting a flawless resume, Greg Gostonian, a managing partner of Clear Rock, an executive coaching firm, tells Fortune: “Plan on making up to 40 phone calls a week, and sending out between 15 and 20 letters to prospective employers, recruiters, and others.” In light of the current market, job seekers must intensify their efforts.

They must also be savvier in their search. Annie Stevens, a partner of Gostonian’s at Clear Rock told Fortune: “In good times, only about 20% of available positions are ever advertised or posted.” Stevens suggests contacting employers directly and registering on their Web sites to receive updates about jobs openings.

Related Topics: Social networking and the job search; other job-seeking advice

Social media sites can be powerful networking tools. Susan Mernit suggests creating an internet identity on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and MeetUp. Mernit calls LinkedIn “the ultimate rolodex” because it creates bridges from your associates to their associates.

One of the first steps in joining is to import your contacts by sending them invitations. Mernit advises, “[W]hen you ask to link to people, remind them how you know them; if you just send a standard note and someone tells the system they don’t know you, the spam guards are set on alert.” Mernit also notes that Meetup.com is useful for finding events—”all sorts of fun things I’m not cool enough to hear of in the usual ways”—joining groups, and organizing your own meetings.

You can also keep yourself busy by creatiing a blog that advertises your skills. Ensure that your online presence is impeccable. Delete incriminating photos from Facebook, and make sure that if you have a non-professional blog, no one can find it. You should then spend at least 30 percent of your day job hunting, and that can include reaching out online.

When you finally do get the call for a job interview, remember to keep a positive attitude. Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, “Walk and sit like you’re royalty, look the interviewer in the eye at all times, smile till your face hurts and make it clear that you’re thrilled to be there.”
Do not under any circumstances demonize your previous employer. An interviewer may appear sympathetic, but she is likely to wonder if you’ll describe her in the same way to your next employer. 

Also, remember to be kind to everyone you meet. Peggy Isaacson, a human resources management and staff trainer told the Sentinel of a company in Massachusetts where job candidates often encountered an older man wearing slippers and a shabby sweater. Some candidates were kind to him while others ignored him. Isaacson said, “The candidates who blew him off goofed—he was the retired chairman of the board of the company. … And yes, he did let HR know which of the waiting-room candidates he thought ought to be hired.”

Lastly, Lynne Behringer of Phoenix was laid off from her job at a phone company after 23 years and said, “This is not your fault ... don’t despair. Think about what you’d really like to do in your life and maybe you can make a career out of it.”

For Behringer, the answer was culinary school. Nine years after losing her job she opened her own tea house. Kitty Wiemelt’s book “Laid Off, Don’t Stress: How to Get from Mad to Glad,” chronicles Behringer’s story as well as other achievers who had success born from disappointment.

Reference: Career Web guides

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