December 2, 2008

5 Tips for Job Hunting in a Recession

Recession, economic downturn, depression.  Call it what you want, but there is no doubt that this is not a great time to be looking for a new job. 

While unemployment figures have yet to pass into the double digits (with the exception of the hardest-hit communities in states like Michigan), companies are focused these days on getting through the tough times — not on expanding their payroll.

Despite the doom and gloom, there are many of you out there who need to find a job.  Now.  So, recession / economic downturn / depression be darned — you can make this job hunt work for you.

As you know by now, this whole blog is dedicated to helping you find fulfilling work.  And I certainly do my best to focus on industries and advice relevant for the current market conditions.  But today’s post is more than just advice.  It’s a nitty gritty to do list: Five sure-fire tips for finding a job, even when all you are hearing is that there aren’t any!

1. Research Recession Proof Industries
Start at the beginning, by looking at careers that are stable and secure.  Your passion may be for day-trading, but now is probably not the best time to follow your heart.  Instead, you can learn ways to put those math genius skills of yours to a more steady paycheck.  Teaching, nursing careers, defense industry jobs — these are some of the most “recession-proof” sectors.  To learn more, do some Googling.

2. Focus on Achievements
Skills are great, but they are also a dime a dozen in today’s economy.  What your future employer wants to know is that you have a record for success.  Rethink your resume in terms of measurable achievements.  Instead of saying that you “managed” something, write that you “increased efficiency by 15%”.  Instead of noting that you were responsible for overseeing the budgets, highlight how you saved your company thousands of dollars.

3. Volunteer
But what if you don’t have measurable achievements?  What if your only record for success is flipping burgers or stocking shelves?  Well, first of all, there is a success story to be told from any job — even (and especially) the minimum wage ones. 

But another way to fill out your resume with relevant job experience is to volunteer.  If you are in college, you should also consider looking for a meaningful internship.  (Paid internships might also be the way for you to go in the first few months post-graduation.)

At a time with budgets are tight and funding is drying up, private companies and non-profit organizations are looking for talent that doesn’t cost them a fortune.  There are many benefits to being a volunteer (or an intern): It is a great way to gain some real experience (and measurable achievements), and maybe even to get your foot in the door with a future employer.

4. Network, network, network.
If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it one hundred times.  Today, more than ever, jobs are being offered to known candidates.  It part, that means internal promotions.  But it also means interviewing and selecting people that have a “known” quality — someone who can vouch for them.  Someone that your future boss trusts.  Open up your Contacts and start making calls.  Ask those people to make some calls too.  Here’s more on how to network.

5. Freelance.
Most of us can’t afford the luxury of a six-month long job search without any income coming in.  Some of you may need to take a part-time job; others might sign up with temp agencies (which, by the way, isn’t a bad idea: I have twice been offered full-time jobs from temp gigs I signed up with during a job search).  Yet another way to keep the cash flow… er… flowing is to freelance. Not all fields support freelancing, but if yours does, this is a great way to stay afloat, strengthen your skills, rack up some more achievements — and make great connections (AKA refer to #4: Network!)

6.  Stay optimistic.
I know I said there would be five tips, but here’s a bonus: Stay optimistic.  If you are feeling depressed and down-trodden, it will show in your interactions with network connections and potential future employers. No, the economy isn’t booming, but your job search still can be.  Stay hopeful and stay on track.   You will have that dream offer in no time!

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