Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Most Critical Lessons From This Crummy Job Market

When I was a kid, one of those "grown-up" sayings that made no sense to me was "never say never again." But as I grew older, I not only began to understand it, and I even found myself saying it.

It concerns me when I hear a lot of "I'll never again do that with my job..." or "I'll never again make that mistake with my career..." because as times improve, I predict many people will fail in those promises to themselves. I did this story for my Gannett/ column in the hopes that we'll all learn from these "never again" stories...

While many of those unemployed in the last year have managed to find work again, the – sometimes painful – lessons they have learned will stick with them for a career lifetime, they say.

“I have never felt so helpless,” says Jim McDonough, who lost his job as a programmer for an AIG subsidiary last June. “There was nothing to even apply for out there. What can you say about a phone that doesn’t ring?”

McDonough, 61, says that the last time he had to really look for a job he simply picked up a newspaper to find job listings. “It isn’t that way anymore. I thought, ‘How the hell do I do this? I know the information is there somewhere.’ I just had to figure it out.”

He began networking through social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, and tried to “keep up with everybody” through e-mail or lunch dates.

“I started calling people I had worked with for the last 15 years through AIG and before – and found that all my contacts were retired, deceased or looking for a job just like I was,” he says. “It was a tremendous blow to my confidence. I had never had to market myself before.”

McDonough was luckier than many job seekers, however, when he landed a job four months later after a recruiter contacted him. While he “jumped” at the business analyst job, it was a step down in terms of responsibilities and skills needed – and about a 30 percent cut in pay. “There were some other possibilities, but they would have required relocating, and my wife has a good job,” he says.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 61 percent of workers laid off in the last three months who have found new jobs report they’ve taken a pay cut. They also report they’re repackaging their skills, with 64 percent who lost their jobs in the last six months saying they have found work in a different field than where they were worked before.

McDonough says he’s learned that job security is a thing of the past, and he’s now more proactive in keeping up with his network and employment possibilities.

“Before I lost my job, the guy I worked for gave me about two months notice that it was coming. But then he was laid off – and he was given a five-minute notice. He never saw it coming,” McDonough says. “All you can do it to tell someone to hang in there, and keep plugging away.”

That’s similar to what Ryan Messick says he has learned – even though he’s a much younger job seeker at age 23.

Since graduating from Syracuse University two years ago with degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in information management and technology and political science, Messick has managed to cobble together a variety of part-time jobs ranging from public relations to website work. “They always say the job is seasonal, but that it could turn into something more long term. It never does,” he says. “Right now, I’m really looking for something full-time.”

Messick says the thing that helps now is that many of his friends are in the same boat: working several part-time jobs and living at home with their parents to try and save money. He says that this tough job market has taught him a number of critical lessons he says he won’t forget – such as the value of networking.

“I’ve learned that you can’t just network online, but you’ve got to get on the phone and talk to people, set up meetings and try and get face-to-face,” he says. “Everyone told me networking was important – but what you really need to do is network with those people who can hire you or know someone who can.”

What other lessons must we all learn from the bad job market?



Melanie said...

I learned that networking is THE ONLY way to find that right opportunity. I wrote a post about this today on my blog:

Anita said...

Thanks for the link...the more information, the better!

Megan Zuniga said...

Ack! That must have been hard getting laid off at that age. Still, with lots of experience under his belt, he should consider taking this opportunity to start his own business. Nowadays, it's not that hard to start up a business. And there are plenty of research available on the net to help get started.

Accounting Jobs in Michigan said...

Contacts building is a best way to get job quickly!

Unknown said...

Great post. Gone are the days where you can pick up a newspaper and find a job. Networking is very important now to find the right opportunity. Updated skills are also important to find an opportunity. I found a great non-profit that has been providing online education to adult jobseekers in 60 IT certifications in (Microsoft,Cisco, Oracle, Sun, A+, Net+, Security+ etc.) and Business (including Project Management certification) at