With consumer confidence sinking and the U.S. plunging into the worst recession since World War II, unemployment has become a big concern for a lot of people. Many major companies are trimming their payrolls, and nationwide unemployment now tops out at more than six percent. Even worse: once economists realize and officially declare that the U.S. is in a recession (which they have recently done), unemployment tends to climb as consumer confidence wanes, businesses start to feel the effects and try to minimize costs by reducing their staffs.
Service industries and manufacturers, especially the auto industry, will be especially hard-hit. That means hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people lining up at the unemployment office and seeking new jobs. Recent college graduates will also find a very competitive job market once they have their degree in hand. Still, jobs can be had, if you know where to look.
1. Network, network, network. Expand your circle of friends by joining civic and professional organzations, charities, chuch groups...anyplace you might find people who work in your industry that may be in a position to help you should the worst happen and you need to find a job. The more people you know in your profession (or a related profession), the better your prospects when looking for a new job. Your friends and acquaintences could not only tell you about any unadvertised openings, but also put in a good word for you, depending upon how well they know you.
2. Be prepared. Even if you think your job is safe, now is a good time to dust off and update that resume. Make sure you have good references on your resume. Keep an eye out for any possible job opportunities you could take advantage of if something happens to your company. Shore up your emergency fund, and try to have 3-6 months of living expenses socked away in case you lose your job and need the safety net.
3. Be the "model" employee. Make yourself indispensible at your current job. Learn how to do things that may be a bit outside your job description, volunteer for extra projects and don't be a complainer about your current work load. When employers trim staff, they will target unhappy employers and those doing the minimum as the first to go. You might still get the axe, but at least you'll get a good reference out of the deal.
4. Don't overlook freelance work. If you don't find another full-time job right away, look at doing something on a part-time basis. Consider consulting for another company (or the one you just left, if it's available). Jobs aren't just outsourced to overseas locations. Many companies look to farm out some of their work to freelancers and consultants right here in the U.S. on an "as-needed" basis. During the recession of 1991, I was "unemployed" for six months. The truth is, while I didn't have a full-time job during that time, I never really did stop working. I worked part-time for several different companies and did numerous one or two-time only projects for others. It didn't replace my full-time income, but it was better than not earning anything at all. Besides, one of those part-time jobs led to me receiving a full-time job when the opening became available.
5. Brush up on your skill set. Make yourself more employable by expanding your skill set. If you work in an office environment you should know how to use all of the programs in the Microsoft Office suite of products including Powerpoint, Excel and Word. There are free tutorials available online. If you have fallen behind on continuing your education in your profession, now is the time to take some continuing education courses and obtain the skills you need in this competitive job environment.
6. Have an "exit strategy". What would you do if you lost your job today? A lot of people don't like to think about it, but they should have a "Plan B" in case the worst happens. Would you know where to look for another job? Do you know people in your industry that can give you good leads on other work? Do you have an idea for a business you would like to start up on your own? The time to come up with other options available to you is when you have a job, not when you are desperately seeking a new job.
If you do find yourself out of work, having a plan of action will put you ahead of the game. Make finding a job your new "full time job" and be very good at interviewing (practice makes perfect), have a stellar resume and identify other jobs you can do other than the one you currently have. You might also consider moving to another are that does have jobs available and taking a little less pay to get your foot in the door at a new company. When it comes to replacing a job and surviving in a rough economy, no option should be off the table.
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