Career Survival Strategies For a Down Economy

The recent crescendo of layoffs and company shutdowns has made even the strongest willed shudder at fear of their unknown future. The massive uncertainty in today’s job market has brought consumer spending to a screaming halt and companies appear to be planning for more personnel restructuring. Here are some tips on how to keep the job you have and if you are unemployed, how to get back to work quickly.

1. Add Value -The employees asked to leave during a downturn in the economy are usually overpaid and underutilized. Talk with supervisors and peers to determine which tasks you can perform to best add value to the company.

2. Shhh! – If you are hearing rumors that your company might be liquidated and you have decided to start looking for other employment, make sure you keep everything related to your search confidential, no matter what. Even the guy you’ve known for the last 10 years at the company might make an innocent comment to another guy he’s known for 10 years that you are looking to leave. This information can very easily end up in the lap of your boss, guaranteeing you a spot at the top of the list for people to be laid off.

3. Confidential resume– If you decide to post your resume on the Internet job boards, not the wisest decision to begin with as you will see in #4, make sure to remove your name and contact information, including references from the entire resume. Overzealous recruiters will not hesitate to contact the references for leads to other job openings and so forth, jeopardizing your confidentiality.

4. Avoid hanging out with the herd – Don’t post your resume on the Internet…at least not right away. The process of finding a job is in many ways like dating. In the earlier stages, it is a good idea not to make yourself easily available as you may appear desperate. Internet-derived candidates are seen as easy and will not be the first ones employers call for an interview. While it might very well be true that you are desperate for work, it is vital that you don’t communicate that to potential hiring managers. Find a hiring manager’s name and phone number at the company and make a call to find out when they will have time to meet with you. Something like this can move you to the front of the line.

5. Stay open and flexible – If you are out of work and aiming for a position that is going to keep you at the same salary, provide you the same vacation package and health benefits, you are out of your mind. It isn’t happening. Without taking too far of a step back, determine what your family can survive on, financially, and take steps to get back to work right away. Without a job, you have absolutely no leverage to bargain. Get your foot in the door and when positions arise that meet with your accustom level of expertise, you will have a greater shot of landing in as an internal employee as opposed to an external stranger. Having a job also provides you more leverage should you continue to search for the ideal position somewhere else, but be careful not to burn any bridges with people at the companies you don’t accept.

6. Try a new industry – Years ago, my dad was laid off, mid-career, from a VP position in the garment industry after the company announced they were moving operations overseas. He was out of work for a year when finally he found an opportunity in a completely different industry doing something completely different than in his previous role; initially paying a lot less money, ‘draw against commission’ compensation structure no less. Within a year’s time, he went on to earn a larger income than he could have hoped to earn in his previous role and was far happier with the new industry in which he flourished. Keep an open mind to other industries and positions. It could lead to something far better than you could have imagined.

7. Stay positive, be relentless – It is easy to fall into the “Woe is me” routine, attending every pity party that will have you, however, it is this negative spiral that is the reason many people don’t get back to work sooner. Stay positive. Each job you don’t get just means you are a step closer to finding the right opportunity. A relentless pursuit to find the right opportunity must remain consistent and take up your entire day. Even letting up slightly invariably leads to laziness and apathy, giving other job seekers with more drive, first crack at potentially huge opportunities. Stay focused and quit the whining.

8. Take care of yourself – Eat right, get good sleep, and be kind to yourself. Showing up to interviews undernourished while lacking sleep is a bad idea as it is will be written all over your face. You only have one chance to make a first impression.

9. Be prepared – Have a professionally created resume printed on high-quality paper with a laser printer and always have copies of it with you. You never know when you’ll meet someone who can help you out.

10. Dress for Success – Attend every interview in a dark suit, white or blue shirt, polished shoes and a conservative necktie. Even if you are applying for a job in a factory where you would be mocked for wearing one, wear it anyway. When you show up for an interview, everyone in the building should be able to look at you and know that you are on an interview. Keep it conservative though…too much jewelry or clothing in colors that might be considered loud can rub some people the wrong way.