Careers In a Recession – Making It Work!

Is This The Double Dip?

Career guidance in a recession can be rather grim.  I know there are lots of high profile Career Coaches out there who make a lot of money from flogging the idea that we can all take advantage of the recession to boost our careers if only we go about it the right way, and it’s true that some people will do well, even in a recession.  But for the Careers Adviser on the ground, working in a recession often means working with low skilled people, who were struggling to stay in work even in the boom, and are now giving up all hope.

Where I live, the biggest employers are all public sector – the council, the hospital, the police, the university , civil service – and the next biggest employers are factories (making sporadic redundancies even before the recession).  Many of the private companies rely almost entirely on contracts from the public sector – to build schools, provide catering or survey wind farms.  It’s hard to see where any new jobs might come from, or to escape the conclusion that we are consigning whole communities to the dole.

It’s easy to despair, but we have work out ways to help people make sense of the recession – this is the challenge for Careers Advisers now.

Top Tips For Jobseekers In Recession

1. Network , network and network some more

It’s said that only 30% of jobs are found through advertised vacancies.  The rest are found through personal contacts, networking and speculative approaches.  In recession, there are even fewer advertised vacancies – companies cut back on expensive advertising and have a larger pool jobseekers putting in speculative applications, so have less need to advertise.  Even unskilled minimum wage adverstied jobs can attract a hundred applicants for each post.

So if you want to find the vacancies where there is less competition, you’ve got to tap into the unadvertised vacancies.  This is true if you are a professional, but it’s even more true if you are a 16-year old school leaver or a returning to work after a break.

Now, personally, I hate networking.  I hate having to make small talk with people that are “important”.  I hate having to approach people to ask for a job.  There’s just too much potential rejection involved.

It’s easier to start with people you know already – ask all your friends and family, ask them to ask everyone they know.  Ask everyone on your facebook page!  Ask if they know of any opportunities or can introduce you to anyone who might know of opportunities.

The next step is to make contact with all the local employers who might have work for you.  It’s easier to visit if you aren’t directly asking for job.  Think of another reason to visit.  Maybe you want to use your redundancy money to re-train – so visit a few employers to get some advice on what training they value most.  Or visit to find out where the employer advertises and what temping agencies they use.  Or maybe just to find out about employment trends in your area.  Try to visit, rather than just email – a visit makes an impression that will be remembered for some time.  An email is forgotten in minutes!  And once you have made a contact, keep in touch, just in case an opportunity has come up.

2. Have a Two Prong Strategy

If it looks like jobhunting is going to be a long haul, develop a two pronged strategy.  Divide your week into two.  Spend part of the week on jobsearch, and part of the week on another project that you can definitely achieve.

The project could be a training programme or course.  It could be voluntary work.  It could be a personal project, maybe developing a hobby you really enjoy.  Ideally, your project should be something you enjoy, something that gives you new skills, and something that will bring you into contact with new people, who might just have an opportunity for you.  It should be something that you can put on your CV to fill the gap between jobs.

Try to do as much as you can of things you really enjoy.  Unemployment can be very depressing, and doing things you enjoy cheers you up.  And when you are happy, you attract people and opportunities to you, sometimes in surprising ways.  You might even find a way to make money out of the thing you really love doing.

3.  Think about self-employment

More people went freelance and set up small businesses in the first part of this recession than at any other time in recent history.  Of course, not all of them succeeded.  But the internet has made it very easy to start a small business without much capital.  You can sell things on ebay or set up a webiste, all without giving up your day job!  Only a few people will make it rich this way, but many people find an additional income doing something they really enjoy.

Some Thoughts About the Welfare Bill

This new Lib-Con government is desperate to reduce the welfare bill (and putting people out of work seems a strange way to go about it!).  But something does need to be done.  Long-term unemployment is often linked to depression, and the longer people have been out of work, the harder it is to get back into work.

Maybe, we should get rid of Jobseekers Allowance, and instead guarentee everyone enough hours of paid work to cover what they would have recieved in benefits.  It wouldn’t cost the government anything extra, and people would have a part-time job that would give them skills (even just the skill of turning up for work), references and bit of self-respect.  Having structure in your week and doing something that helps other people is conducive to better mental health.

An Alternative To Redundancies

What about those of us in employment?  We all work long hours, don’t see enough of our families and don’t have enough time to relax and do the things we enjoy.

Perhaps we would all be happier if we worked fewer hours and had a bit less money.  After all, if we all had less money, we wouldn’t be comparing ourselves unfavourably to our friends (and that is where most of our disatisfaction with our income comes from).  Maybe we should all agree to work a four day week, rather than make some people redundant.  Then the work and the money would be shared out more fairly, and so would free time!

What About Me?

What will I do if I get made redundant?  Careers Advisers are already being made redundant in Connexions, so it could happen!  Maybe this government will decide that free career guidance is a luxury we can do without.

So what else can I do?

I did once enjoy a brief stint as an agony aunt for a women’s magazine.  It’s a different sort of work.  Careers Advisers spend a lot of time helping their clients develop skills – skills in motivating themselves, making decisions, bouncing back from setbacks, weighing up options, researching, applying for jobs and planning.  It’s sometimes slow work, and at times you have to refrain from giving advice, because you want the client to make their own decision.

Agony Aunts, on the other hand, have a brief description of the problem (far too brief – I always wanted to ask more questions!) and have to write an equally brief reply.  They have to jump down off the fence and give an opinion, often without knowing all the facts.  The hardest part is writing to the word limit (four sentences!)  But it is something I would like to re-visit, so do post your career related problems, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

One Last Thought…

Have you ever thought about your pension and what it is invested in?  I was interested to find out that my pension is invested in BP – a company I would never choose to in, because of the wide range of environmental disasters they are involved in.  Check out http://www.fairpensions.org.uk to find out more.

Do let me know your thoughts on anything to do with work, careers, jobhunting or what you would like from an online Careers Adviser!


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