Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are We There Yet? Getting Ready for the Recovery

I’m asked continuously by job seekers and people in career transition how I see the job marketplace. The specific questions are: Are we at the bottom yet? How high will unemployment go? When will the recovery begin? When will the job market improve? And, what will the job market look like when things turn around?

This last question is the most pertinent and most useful. First of all, when I hear this one, I can see that people are looking ahead and are using their strengths in a positive way to envision where future opportunities will be. Secondly, this question indicates that people are putting their attention less on externals and (Does it really make a difference that unemployment is 10%, rather than 9%?) and instead are focusing on those things over which they do have control. That is to say, what can they do now to prepare themselves for when things turn around?

There are a number of things you can do to get ready for the recovery. You can make sure your resume is current and emphasizes your accomplishments, over and above what you are or were responsible for. Furthermore, it should paint a clear picture of your skills and the added value that result from those skills. Secondly, this is an excellent time to be enhancing or adding to your skill set. Take that class you’ve been putting off, read the book your colleagues have said is a must-read. Learning, whether through formal means or self-study, is fundamental to preparing for the recovery.

This is also an excellent time to be developing the habit of networking. I’m finding that people are very open to helping and advising others, so this is an opportune time to renew old contacts and make new connections. The key to networking is to make it a disciplined part of how you manage your career, regardless of whether or not you are in transition. You can also be scripting and rehearsing the story you will be asked in the not-too-distant future: “How did you weather the recession and what did you do to enhance your employability.” Practicing this now will build your resilience and make it easier to move forward in a clear and confident manner.

Finally, this is a great time to be working on what some have called “presence.” You can use your experience of being out of work or unhappily employed as an exercise in developing patience and persistence. You can learn how to stay calm and focused amidst the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds you. And, you can develop a sense of perspective when you recognize that no matter how bad things might be, this shall, as they say, pass.

Best wishes in preparing for the recovery.

Mark Guterman