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Searching for Work in a Recession

Dec 4 2008

It’s official. The US is in a long-term recession. Technically it began last December, but the big numbers have been rolling in just recently. Employers shed over 250,000 jobs in November, according to a pair of private reports released this month. This trend isn’t likely to reverse anytime soon as more evidence that the recession may still be deepening continues to come in.

Based on data from nearly 400,000 companies, the report showed large, medium and small companies all shed jobs almost equally from all sectors of the economy.
Cash-strapped Americans, faced uncomfortable realities about their jobs as businesses laid off workers, cut wages and reduced hours.

If You’re Next, Be Smart
If you are getting ready for a job search during a recession, here are some tips.

1. Boost your work skills
“Don’t give an employer a reason to pass you over because you don’t know the basics,” states Diane Morgan, director of career services at London Business School. There are quick certification courses at career colleges and community colleges that allow you to brush up on basic office skills like Microsoft Office or effective communication. “Since these are skills you can learn from an online course or a library book, there are no excuses for not having them.”

Online courses or classes at career colleges can be done at times that are convenient for you, so no matter how little time you have to invest, you can make it work. At the same time, many of the courses are affordable and reasonably priced.

2. Look closer at job data to find a new direction

Focus on industries and job sectors that are experiencing worker shortages or still experiencing job growth. You may be surprised to find that you have comparable skills to the kind of employee these sectors pursue.

For example, by looking at the Bureau of Labor website, you can see that health care, education, government, hospitality, and computer categories have all gained jobs this year.

3. Spread out with social networking
It may sound strange, but there can be mountains of opportunities with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. You just have to start getting serious about it, instead of just being a more casual participant.

Networking is easy and many like Linkedin.com and Ryze.com are being set up specifically for professional pursuits. If you don’t feel you have the time to start all over again on a professional network, you can still use your personal network of friends. It’s easy to contact them in an instant to ask for quick favors. You can simply ask for help in getting an introduction at their company or maybe something better. Just don’t be shy about asking.

4. You can earn part-time
Getting your foot in the door at a new job may be easier if you aim for part-time work,” advises Katy Piotrowski, career counselor and author of “The Career Coward’s Guides.” “Work to find multiple part-time positions lower on the ladder and you’ll benefit from more job security. If one of your jobs evaporates, you have the others to fall back on.” Of course, one of the detracting factors here is that many part-time jobs feature only basic health benefits, if they feature any at all.

5. You are your brand
Sell your strengths, whatever they may be. Identify them and put together the best possible personal brand based on you. You can do this with a professional-looking résumé, compelling cover letters, and diligent communication with human resources offices.

If you get some interest, be prepared. This can’t be stressed enough. An interview isn’t something to be improvised. You should be prepared, professional and do the work for the interviewer. Don’t make them guess or imagine how you could fit in. Tell them how your skills are relevant to the department’s long-term strategy and especially the company’s bottom line.

6. Keep unrealistic expectations at bay
Get real about the time it will take to find a new job. In a job market during a recession, expect it to take at least three months to find a job that pays $40,000. Add one month for every $10,000 more you want in salary.