Job Search Strategies in a Down Economy

Serious times call for serious measures especially as they apply to a job search. Whether it’s a first job, the fifth or the fifteenth, there are ways to prepare, actions to take and activities to do that move the process forward. For some, who are searching because of downsizing/layoffs, it may feel embarrassing to be separated from a job and career that was a source of pride, comfort and income as one 45 year old professional mentioned. If  you really like your job, your company and your co-workers, being separated from them is disconcerting and painful.

During the 1982 downturn, I co-designed the San Francisco Examiner’s weekly Careers Series, one of the first locally produced Career Columns in the US. The only difference between then and now is the internet. We supplied three years worth of columns to help people in their career and job changes and searches as well as managing the career they had.

People were experiencing layoffs, downsizing, re-engineering, mergers and sticky situations with bosses,mentors and co-workers.   “Networking” was rather new-ish. Oh, it’s been around for centuries but there was no formal name applied to that common sense and common courtesy reciprocal process.  Now, networking was merely a noun and now it’s a verb—a word of action!

When I experienced a teacher layoff from the career my Mother said you could “always fall back on”, (so much for that myth), I was stunned, annoyed and felt betrayed.  What I learned: 

The theme is that the more visible we are, the more viable we are.  The first step is to “work”, in the nicest manner possible, every gathering, event, party by MEETING people and having conversations that build connections. The second is to network like it’s 1989. Not only does that mean to “find friends” and become “linked in”, it also means to consistently do the one- on- one follow-up with people you know or just met. 

We have more options than ever to follow-up: we can text, email, poke, write on a wall and— how’s this for a retro thought—PICK UP THE PHONE! Have a conversation where you can HEAR tone, pacing, inflection and share a laugh. Too many people are avoiding the phone and losing phone skills. The main problem is that some employers are so inundated with resumes that they conducting phone job interviews first.

We all know that just looking at Want Ads is NOT enough whether they appear in the local paper, The Wall Street Journal, on a professional website or on Craigslist.  Don’t misunderstand, we do need to be exploring all avenues and that includes want ads, job boards and websites.  People post and advertise jobs in the hopes that the dream employee will read the ad and respond.

Since the early 1980’s, there was knowledge of what was then called “THE HIDDEN JOB MARKET.”   It’s not that it was hidden as much as it was word of mouth…out of the mouths of people we knew who knew of openings at their company or in their profession.

The answer to the dilemma, “How to FIND the hidden jobs” is the same now as it was 30 years ago: Be Visible. Be Viable. NETWORK! By the way, that is how people have learned of job openings for decades even before the term was appropriated to describe those activities which connect us to others.

When I ask my audiences how many of them have learned of at least one of their jobs through another person, about 80% of the group raises their hand.  It’s the way the workaday world has always worked. You learn that your company needs another mechanic, tailor, administrative assistant, sheet metal worker, legal consultant and you tell a friend who knows someone who fits the description. Sometimes those jobs are filled through the informal word-of-mouth networking process before they are posted.

Now that the play 9 To 5 has been revived we are aware that the workday used to be just that: 9 to 5. Even as it has expanded and spilled over into our personal lives due to technology and the blurring of lines of demarcation, I would encourage using our 5-9 time slot to build that professional job search network.

Point:  People refer jobs to people they know or know of though a close source who can vouch for that person. Many people (in spite of sites that build on 6 degrees of separation) aren’t going to risk a reputation on someone they don’t know. I won’t.

Therefore, it makes sense to be visible in professional and alumni associations, community organizations and local groups. Additionally, we have the option of going to meet ups and tweet ups! Mother’s warning: “Go out, you’ll never meet anyone sitting at home” is no longer true. We can meet a lot of people online and even become techno friends a term described in Friendship by Joseph Epstein.  In this down economy, we need to connect in as many ways as possible.  Over a beverage… well, that’s a good start!