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Silver Linings in a Financial Meltdown: How Workers and Job-Seekers Can Make the Best of a Bad Economy

The e-mail I got today was typical of what I’ve been hearing: “For the first time in my career I find myself unexpectedly searching for a job. Until recently, I was the sales manager for a well-known horticultural company and have been laid off because of the company’s shaky financial picture.”

In troubled economic times, a kind of paralysis sets in among the newly jobless like my e-mail correspondent, as well as workers who fear the axe may soon fall on them. Perhaps they are in denial, but too many of them hunker down and refuse to invest in the very tools they need to be ready for possible job loss. If you think your job is even remotely threatened by an economic meltdown, you must be ready with at a minimum, your resume and perhaps career coaching to help you regroup and find work as quickly as possible.

It’s also smart to think in new ways and anticipate the silver linings that may result from the economic crisis. Taking inspiration from “the other side of the hiring desk,” recruiting experts who have recently written about retooling in the face of the meltdown, this article helps point out hidden opportunities to be found in a downturn.

We know that freezes will occur freezes in spending, raises, career advancement, and worst of all, hiring. Writing on ERE.net, recruiting guru Dr. John Sullivan calls these “one of the first knee-jerk reactions many CFOs and senior managers take.” What will freezes mean for you? And how can you find those silver linings?

Anticipate freezes. Sullivan notes that an early-warning sign of hiring freezes is the “infamous paper-clip memo,” in which management cautions workers to curtail spending on office supplies, travel, and professional-development activities. Such a memo often foreshadows a freeze. The paper-clip memo foretells that you must start thinking about preparing for job loss or for the difficulty you will encounter because of widespread hiring freezes in landing a new job.

Be alert to employers that may be doing lots of hiring before a freeze sets in. Sullivan writes that “anticipating freezes often encourages hiring managers to hire ‘a bunch’ of people early (whether they are needed or not).” Network, talk to recruiters, and keep your ear to the ground to learn of extraordinary pre-freeze opportunities.

Leverage the winter of your discontent. As ExecuNet Vice President Lauryn Franzoni observes in an article for SafetyXChange, “job dissatisfaction is a major challenge even when times are good. And right now, times are far from good.” You may be happy in your job, but you could grow restless if your employer imposes freezes on promotions and raises. You may be itching to move on to a company that realizes the business case for approaches to dealing with the crisis that don’t entail freezes. Or to a “fast and agile” company that has adopted what Sullivan calls the “new model for the global economy… firms [that] simultaneously hire and release workers in different areas.” Now may be the time to seriously consider a job or career change.

If you are considering a career change, brainstorm the new jobs that may emerge from the crisis. Kevin Wheeler, president and founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc., observes that “every recession is an opportunity to recalibrate, learn, and decide what skills and competencies are most likely to be needed as we emerge from this recession.” He recalls that the need for skills in not only physical security, but also data and financial security, emerged from 9-11. Put on your thinking cap to predict what kinds of candidates will be needed to deal with the mess Wall Street left behind. Regulators, perhaps? The candidates for public office have emphasized the role of alternative-energy sources in rebuilding the economy. Start looking for niches and markets, such as green jobs, that may yield your next career.

Internal hiring will increase in importance. Shifting people around internally is less costly than hiring outsiders, and as Sullivan writes, “managers need to increase the impact of their current employees by developing plans to transfer people internally from low-return areas to those with higher return.” The recession climate could be a terrific time to make an internal move. You will need a great resume and other tools to migrate within the organization. A mentor can also be a huge help when you want to make an internal move.

Passive candidates are more desirable than ever. Employers and recruiters covet passive candidates over those actively looking for a job. In these down times, recruiters whose activities may be somewhat curtailed by freezes will be building their databases of passive candidates. If you are nervous about job loss but not yet ready to actively pound the pavements, you can take advantage of your passive status by putting feelers to recruiters and positioning yourself as a desirable passive candidate who is nonetheless open to new opportunities.

Prepare for a slower pace. The pace of hiring in recent years has been frenetic but is likely to slow significantly. Wheeler notes that recruiters have had no time to “plan, think, experiment” over the last five years, so frenzied has the pace of recruiting and hiring been. While the hiring process will likely take longer as employers review their budgets and best candidates, hiring decision-makers may give more attention to applicants. Be patient as the market cools down.

Be alert to employers who are taking advantage of the downturn. Sullivan points to the lack of recruiting competition during troubled times. “A firm can now successfully attract experienced and college hires that their weak employment brand, pay rates, or location wouldn’t normally allow.” Suss out those employers and the good opportunities for the candidate who has his or her resume ready to go. Even if such employers don’t represent your ideal, an interim position may tide you over until you’re A-list employers are hiring again.

Weak performers may be the first to go. Beyond downsizings, employers may look to the downturn as a good time to dump their poor performers. If your most recent evaluations have not been great, you may be among the most vulnerable. Be ready. On the flip side, if you’re a great performer, you may find that the offloading the non-producers will open vacancies for you.

Networking, online and face-to-face, will soar in importance. Recruiters and employers will seek recruiting methods that are less costly than business as usual. Wheeler recommends to them social networks, blogs, wikis, virtual job fairs, and virtual recruiting techniques. Here’s your opportunity to delve or delve more deeply­ into social networking, deploy branding strategies, obtain an online portfolio, and more. Hiring decision-makers will also utilize good old-fashioned face-to-face networking to find employees. (Of course, networking has always been the most effective way to get a job, but it will be even more so now.)

Keeping in touch with non-hiring employers can still pay off. Wheeler advises recruiters to “carefully, authentically, and regularly communicate with the best candidates.” If recruiters and other hiring decision-makers are reaching out, be ready to reach back. Even if employers are not hiring, stay in touch and remain receptive to decision-maker outreach that may yield results when things improve. Lay the foundation for success while you wait for the economy to rebound.

Final thought: This too shall pass. Although he doesn’t make clear how the phenomenon happens, Sullivan writes that “any review of history will reveal that the majority of wealth in modern civilizations is more often than not created during times of significant economic crisis.” Economic conditions are always cyclical. Sooner or later, things will be better.

See also these Job-Hunting During a Recession Articles for Job-Seekers.

by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

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Job-Hunting in a Weak Job Market: 5 Strategies for Staying Upbeat (and Improving Your Chances of Success)

Job Market Blues: A malady affecting millions of Americans during a weak job market caused by a struggling economy. Symptoms include high levels of anxiety, fear, and depression related to keeping one’s current job or finding a new job, tied to the ability to pay one’s bills and maintain a place to live and food to eat.

For many job-seekers, searching for a new job is a stressful experience. The end result, though, is usually a positive one in which the job-seeker is rewarded for his or her past accomplishments with a better job, a job that has more prestige, higher pay, and perhaps with a better organization.

But when you have to conduct a job-search in a weak job market, the stress level increases dramatically especially if you are currently unemployed, expect to be let go from your current employer, or work in an industry or profession that has seen widespread job cuts.

To make matters worse, it’s hard not to get anxious and depressed from the daily economic and job news we receive. Just about every day we hear about another company announcing layoffs or some economist predicting more months of job losses and a sharp increase in the unemployment rate… leading many into the Job Market Blues.

Let’s face it if very few politicians will. The U.S. economy is in a recession. While other economic data may not yet confirm what many of us have known for months, history shows that anytime in the last century when the economy has had at least six consecutive months of job losses, the economy has ultimately been declared in recession.

So, when all this bad news abounds and adds to the stress you already feel in trying to find a new job, how do you keep your focus and stay upbeat? What’s the remedy? Granted, it can be difficult, but if you follow the five strategies in this article, you should be well on your way to overcoming the stress and anxiety and landing that next great job or at least a job that will help you pay your bills.

1. Keep a positive focus. In a weak job market, employers that are actually hiring workers have a much greater selection of prospective candidates and will quickly eliminate any job-seekers who appear desperate or too negative.

Your goal, even if you are scrambling to pay your mortgage and put food on the table, is to appear outwardly positive. Employers seek job candidates who are confident and specific about the jobs they seek and the impact they can make in those positions.

You may need to consider temping or a survival job if you are currently unemployed while you seek a new job in your profession, and while that is not the ideal scenario, doing so will allow you to pay your bills, gain some renewed confidence, and give you an emotional boost that will help in your job interviews.

If you were downsized or fired, you face some additional challenges of convincing yourself that you are still a good job prospect.

One final tip. When the bad news is overwhelming or you are feeling angry and frustrated, try and find a way to step outside the bubble. Take a few hours to get away from all the bad news do something enjoyable like going to the park or beach or down to the river to fish. Doing so will not make all the bad news disappear but will give you a mental break you need to face the next challenges.

2. Surround yourself with support. Do not suffer through a bad time alone. Seek out the emotional support of family and friends. Sometimes just talking out about our fears and the stress we are experiencing makes us feel better.

Whatever you do, don’t hide your problems from the people closest to you. There is no shame in being downsized or in struggling to find new employment. The comfort you can receive from a spouse, significant other, parent, or friend can be enough to give you the emotional boost you need to reinvigorate your job-search.

The other benefit from seeking the support of others is that the more people in your network of contacts that know you are seeking a job, the more likely you will uncover more job leads that you may never have found if people around you did not know you were seeking a new position.

One final tip. While using your existing network for support is a good start, consider taking additional steps to expanding your network. Join one or more community or professional organizations. An even better idea? Join together with other job-seekers in forming a job club, which has then dual benefits of offering support and potential job leads.

3. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. While much of the current employment news is certainly awful and we sometimes feel badly reporting that news in the Quintessential Careers Blog the reality is that there are many companies hiring new employees every day.

Of course, it’s not just employment news that turns our stomachs, but all the other economic bad news such as faltering banks, the weak dollar, rising inflation, and a president who wishes he had a magic wand to fix all the problems.

But there are also programs and professionals that can assist you in improving your job-hunting techniques or offering retraining opportunities. And the Congress is working on extending unemployment benefits and other economic packages to assist people struggling with bad mortgages.

One final tip. If you watch your local television news, turn it off at least until you have a new job. Several organizations have proven that most local news programs sensationalize bad news for ratings, and the more you watch these programs, the more you feel that the world is collapsing around you and you simply do not need that kind of atmosphere when you are struggling to keep your confidence.

4. Have long-term focus, but short-term goals. The most successful job-seekers have a long-term career strategy developed with smaller short-term goals to assist them in achieving that long-term goal.

Your most basic goal may be to simply find a new job in your field, but even in this job market, that could be more long-term. Instead of dwelling too much on getting the job, put more emphasis on the process of finding the job.

In other words, create daily job-hunting goals for yourself. Make it a goal to accomplish several things each day, such as tracking down job leads, applying for jobs, making new network contacts, following up job leads, going on job interviews.

One final tip. It’s a bit of a cliche, but the best way to really focus on finding a new job is to treat the job-search like a job in itself. Invest as much time, energy, and commitment to finding a new job as you do at your job. The more things you can do today to find a new job will result in more job opportunities maybe not tomorrow or even next month, but the rewards will come to you.

5. Remember that everything counts. Of course, everything counts — but let’s use a marketing example to demonstrate that when you are seeking a new job you are basically marketing yourself to prospective employers.

Marketing is not just about having a great product, but also having the right packaging, distribution, price, and promotion to attract consumers. There are many stories of great products that have failed miserably because of some flaw in the other elements of marketing.

If you are struggling with your job-search, review your entire marketing package:

Your product. All products need some freshening at times, but they also need to have obvious features that are in demand. Review your accomplishments, education and training, and other elements that make you or can make you a strong candidate. Just as consumers love new and shiny products, so too do employers seek job candidates who have the best mix of education, training, and accomplishments all packaged in a friendly, positive, and professional style.

Your promotion. The three most important elements in promoting yourself to employers are cover letters, resumes, and interviewing technique. If you are not getting any interviews, the problem could very well be with your resume or cover letter; seek advice from experts about the quality of your resume and cover letters (from local career one-stop centers, former bosses, your college career center, or a resume service). If you are going on interviews but not obtaining any offers, the problem may be with your interviewing style; consider asking a hiring manager who did not hire you to critique your interviewing style, or consider conducting a mock interview with someone in your network or a local career professional.

Your distribution channels. The vast majority of job-seekers who struggle in any economy to find a job typically are only utilizing a small part of their job-search distribution channels. When job-hunting, your most important channel for uncovering job lead is your network of contacts, the vast majority of new hires result from a personal recommendation of a network contact. And with the expansion of Web 2.0 tools, networking has exploded online. Besides networking, other channels for uncovering job leads includes: Web job boards (national, local, and industry/profession), company job postings, trade publications, local newspapers, cold calling, recruiters, career fairs, and career centers (local, university).

Your pricing. In any job market, it’s important to have a realistic idea of your value to prospective employers, but it is even more important in a weak market to not price yourself out of the chance to obtain the interview or receive the job offer. Use industry salary information as well as salary Website information to determine the salary you seek especially if employers ask for that information from the beginning with a salary request. You should also have a strong understanding of the salary negotiation process so you’re ready when the time arises. Finally, you typically should not undervalue yourself when job-hunting, but in bad times, you may be forced to take a big cut in salary just to pay the bills; if so, stay determined that it is just a temporary setback until the market gets better or until you can find a better job.

One final tip. Whether you believe the power that marketing has in job-hunting, the most important thing to remember is that you should always put your best foot forward in all aspects of job-hunting. You cannot be defeatist. You cannot appear demanding. You cannot appear or act overqualified. If you are not getting any interviews or if you are obtaining interviews only to be told you are underqualified or overqualified, the problem is indeed in the marketing of yourself and you’ll need to fix it before you’ll be successful.

Final Thoughts
In a struggling economy, the Job Market Blues affect us all. Staying upbeat in these weak economic times is tough even when you are happily employed and not seeking new employment. Job-hunting in such a job market can place a great strain on your self-confidence and outlook for the future. By following the advice in this article, you’ll not only regain some of your confidence but ideally uncover ways you can enhance and improve your job-search, leading to both short-term and long-term job goal successes and beating the blues.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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Facing Your Performance Review in a Down Economy

If you’re expecting a performance review soon, understand that there’s no place to hide nowadays.

Over the years, the corporate performance review has been seen as the ticket to our annual raise or quarterly bonus. That notion has become almost automatic in our thinking, but it will be a big mistake in an economic downturn.

This obsolete way of thinking will certainly net you less in compensation or bonus, if you receive any. If you expect an automatic raise or promotion, your employer may doubt your continued viability, especially if corporate revenue is shrinking.

A Raise is a Reward, Not a Right
Executive recruiter Neil McNulty advises being careful about how you handle your performance review. Too often employees have perceived the performance review as a mere ritual to the next raise. If sales are down in your company, expect cuts all across the board. As the principal recruiter with the McNulty Management Group out of Norfolk, VA, McNulty advises his candidates from the perspective of one who has seen the ups and downs of the economy over the past 20-plus years.

As a result, Neil suggests that you not expect an equivalent raise for the same amount of output you might have received in the past. This is a time to let go of the old expectations when it comes to this year’s performance review. Too many people think that if they received a 7 percent raise in the past, then that’s their right, and they better get it. That’s old thinking that will have no traction these days.

As an alternative, be prepared to think and talk “return-on-investment,” meaning preparing ahead of time by developing a list of examples of how you have helped positively impact the company’s bottom line. If you’re in management, this exercise may seem obvious and unnecessary. If so, lose that attitude. Instead, use this as an opportunity to make sure that nothing is lost in translation. Your review can be your moment to nail it and re-emphasize those specific achievements and accomplishments that you can take credit for. After all, demonstrating your ROI can mean the difference between nothing and thousands of dollars to your personal bottom line, not to mention additional security and consideration for future responsibilities within the organization.

You may need to do some additional preparation for your review. One strategy is to approach the review as if it were an interview. If you were a job-seeker today, you would realize that skills and length of service are no longer selling points. Differentiating yourself in some memorable way by citing past accomplishments has become a ticket to success in today’s competitive economy. That means answering the “what’s in it for me?” question. In the performance review, the question translates to “what have you done for me lately?”

Think of the performance review as an opportunity to apply for your job as if it were the first time. Take nothing for granted and get notes on paper to back up your conversation in the meeting. If you’re a revenue-generator in the company, be prepared to list the specific gains you contributed. If you’re not a revenue-generator, be prepared to illuminate instances when you’ve saved the company money. When you develop your list, be as specific as you can, and be sure to include the specific result in your example.

Final Thoughts
In today’s economy, be careful how you handle performance reviews. You can’t afford to take the same old mindset of entitlement. See your past performance as part of a bigger picture that has helped the organization’s bottom line. Arrive prepared to discuss specific examples to answer the “what have you done for me lately?” question.
 

by Joe Turner

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You should be well equipped with these most in-demand I.T Certifications/Exams, Before searching any job, Visit http://www.ComputerTipsnTricks.com/ITcert.htm for Free Practice Exams, Free Study Material / Books etc.

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