Take This Job Market – Please!

What a difference a year makes. Layoffs, mergers, restrategizing, and plain old firings have made this a tough time for industry veterans and rookies alike.

Having been through this myself several times, I thought I’d pass on a few things I’ve learned to help you strengthen your position when the managers start calling mandatory “5 p.m. on Friday” meetings or if you’ve already lost a job.

Update your skills. Make sure that you’re up on what’s going on in the industry. If you’re a copywriter, learn Dreamweaver. If you’re an art director, take some classes in Flash or in whatever the newest technology is at the moment. It broadens your appeal and makes you more valuable to your present company.

Glad to meet ya! Get out of your office and meet people. We all get so buried in our own little worlds at work that we can forget there’s a big world out there. And you know more people than you think. For example, I work in a suburban office park with 22,000 people. I’m the chairman of the Special Events Committee, which brings big rock bands to the area. On the committee are 14 other fun people from companies big and small. Half of our meetings consist of just talking about business and stuff. When you expand your circle, the possibility of finding new opportunities increases quickly and dramatically.

What’s going on at your office? Are you clued in to opportunities at your own office? A great way to expand your horizons is to talk with project managers to see if there is any way you could help on their projects. Most companies get very “silo-oriented,” and it can be hard to change that. But if you let the right people know that you’re willing to do more than expected, it will get you into different circles and you’ll be seen as a valuable member of several teams. The more the better.

Time for a career check. If you think that your company is going to be affected by cuts, take some time and really think about your next career move. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, now might be the time to make a switch. This isn’t our parents’ generation, where people worked for one company for 40 years and then died. It’s a big world out there — now might be the time to become the forest ranger or trapeze artist you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Job boards can be a big help. Monster.com, HotJobs.com, and FlipDog.com do a good job of organizing your search. FlipDog.com is especially helpful because it sends a daily email of jobs that fit your requirements. But don’t rely on them. I know a guy who gets up at 7 a.m., checks the job boards, then tells people that he is done looking for the day. It takes work to find work.

You could always pray. If you belong to a synagogue, church, mosque, or other group, spread the word there. Believe me, there is a real power in letting people know that you’re looking. And most people love to help, so don’t be shy about letting people know your situation.

There’s no such thing as a demeaning job. When I first moved to Richmond many years ago, I was trying to find a job, get married, and adjust to living in the South. It took five months to get a real job here. In the meantime, I went back to restaurant work. Thanks, Lone Star Steakhouse. Although the job wasn’t thrilling, I did meet some great people, got out of the house every day, and learned the Boot Scoot Boogie. There is real power in getting out of bed in the morning and having somewhere to go.

There’s no shame in being out of work. Do you know anyone who hasn’t been affected by layoffs or firings? I don’t. The hardest part of this is keeping your chin up while you’re going through this. The best advice I can offer is to set aside a certain amount of time every day to work the computer and work the phones, and make it a part of your day until you find the job you want.

Family is everything. When you lose a job, your whole family is affected. It’s hard not to let that seep into your relationship with your significant other and, especially, your kids. Don’t take it out on them. I know that’s easier said than done, but let them support you emotionally for a while as you get your stuff together.

Losing a job is like being ripped out of a comfortable family. But, as I’ve learned through this column, there are a lot of great people who read these weekly articles who are happy to help. When I wrote an article about mentoring a few weeks ago, I received more than 100 emails from people who wanted to get involved. There are now 50 pairs working together around the world. So, if you’ve been let go from your job and need to be connected to some people who could help, please let me know. I can’t guarantee it’ll lead to a job, but it’s a start. You can email me at peter@stickyideas.com.

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