Monday, March 16, 2009

Getting Started - Week Two of the Job Search

Beginning a job search is a challenge any time. In late 2007, when people were scratching their heads and wondering how the subprime mortgage collapse might impact the broader economy, I was looking for work in Denver. Now, only a year and a half later, after Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie Mae, GM and Chrysler, we KNOW the impact. And I'm now at it again. A couple thoughts follow from my short time as a jobless Denverite:

1. Don't panic! Thanks to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for this nifty bit of wisdom. We're in the middle of a recession and lots of people are losing their jobs. This week's cover story in the Economist is The Jobs Crisis. While some of us may have helpful support mechanisms (e.g. savings, family support or lotto winnings), which makes this advice easier to pursue, panicking won't move you to your next job or the next phase of your life. If you don't know what resources you have at your disposal, a skills audit or reassessment may be helpful. It also may be time to discover your inner entrepreneur. Remember that this isn't happening to you. This is happening to the country and the globe.

2. Prepare. Where to start? Somewhere. Polish your resume. Scan the job boards. Read some career advice articles or, if you're in Denver (or even if you're not), listen to Andrew Hudson on Channel 4's "Beat the Recession" webcast. Better yet, take a few days off to give yourself the mental and emotional space you need to absorb what just happened. Just over a week after the dust settled from my job loss, I went to see the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Denver. Seeing Darth Vader wave improbably to everyone (he should have worn a green suit) was just what I needed! Focusing yourself also can keep you from your thoughts spinning in a million different unhealthy directions.

3. Prepare to be distracted. There may be more involved in the job search than you realize, but that's not a bad thing. It's also an opportunity to learn new skills. Yesterday morning, I had a couple items on my bulleted list of job-search activities that included a quick scan of the Career Experts Q&A page on PRSA's web site. It turns out I found two great articles on developing a professional portfolio with insights that went well beyond what I'd ever completed in the past in developing one. My bulleted list went out the window and I spent the next 3.5 hours integrating material from my last job into my portfolio and thinking seriously about how I could effectively present it to potential employers in the future. Getting sidetracked isn't always a bad thing.

4. Take Baby Steps. I sent out two resumes last week. Only two. Not a whole lot. But I also did some great networking, learned about a number of professional resources and an upcoming job fair. It could be that I still haven't been out of the labor market long enough to understand the desperation of other job seekers I hear about who are sending out tons of resumes. I concede that point, and my day may come. But my current philosophy is to generate a few small victories by finding and applying for job postings that look exciting (consider looking around the country to broaden your opportunities). First of all, take time to understand who you are and what you offer--then take action.

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