Finding a Job, Holding On, and Planning For the Future

There are few things as discouraging as not having a job. It not only attacks the underpinnings of our economic security and peace of mind, but it can have effects on our level of self-esteem too. The current economy has put many hard working, dedicated and long term employees in some very trying circumstances. It has also made decision time a lot harder for upcoming college graduates. This article makes suggestions for different types of current and future workers, so some might be realistic for you to try, while other suggestions are clearly going to be better for others.

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1. This May Be An Opportunity
It's been said that sometimes our greatest opportunities come wrapped up inside our most difficult problems. It is obviously very traumatic finding yourself unemployed, but there are some things in life we just can't control. The sooner you can face that, the faster you will be able to re-focus and the quicker you will get to where your future lies. It can make it a lot harder if you really liked your job and are going to miss it, but if you didn't like it, you still may have just stuck with it, thinking you had no other choice, or that there was too much risk in leaving it. Now you have a real chance to try to find something that may be far more satisfying to you.

As a result of the recession, there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars spent on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure of roads and bridges. Do you think that would have happened if we hadn't had a recession? When those projects are completed, our roads and bridges will be safer and we'll owe it to the recession. Losing your job might produce a similar silver lining in the long run for you and your family. Move forward in faith doing your best and it may happen for you. President Obama is setting a good model for us to follow, not sure of exactly what's going to work, but working at it and not quitting, until the desired result is achieved.

2. You Only Need One Job
No matter how high the unemployment rate gets, remember you only need one job. Don't let the statistics get you down. Just keep your eye on the ball. If there are two wage earners in a household, try to find work at different places. A number of workers faced more rapidly deteriorating financial conditions when they both worked at the same place and both loss their incomes and benefits at the same time. It's not a good position to put yourself in.

3.Stop The Bleeding - Cut Your Expenses To The Bone
You don't know how long you will have to tread water. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best and stay busy working toward that goal. It's scary not having enough to pay your bills, including your mortgage or rent and car payments, and wondering how you are going to take care of others who are depending on you. The first thing is to slow the bleeding of expenses as best you can by finding any type of work that will bring money in, but that is also flexible enough so if you find something better, you can leave that job easily: jobs such as cleaning houses, cutting lawns, babysitting, selling telephone/cable contract packages, etc. Some money coming in from some kind of work, combined with unemployment compensation and living as frugally as possible can help keep you afloat. Here are some other thoughts:

- Shop differently at the food store. Get extra of whatever is on sale and use coupons to buy it. (Start a coupon exchange where you exchange coupons with other coupon collectors.) Look on the internet, as well as in newspapers and magazines for coupon offers. The goal is to always be eating what you bought on sale without having to pay full price for anything you eat. As you build up your stock, you'll be able to do this more and more.

- If you have a stock of things in the pantry, or frozen food that you've been keeping, now's the time to live off the fat of the land for a while. Food banks are also a possibility, but they have been hard hit by the crisis too. Try to minimize store trips. The more trips you make, the more you're likely to spend. Shop after you've already eaten. Shoppers buy more when they are hungry.

- Don't put anything on charge cards unless there is a desperate need to do so. You don't need interest on top of already existing debt. If you are in a bind with credit card debt, get credit counseling from your county or state government to help restructure and reduce your debt load. Be very wary of any offers that say they can eliminate your debt, particularly things you see on the internet.

- Make do with what you have. Keep the old New England proverb of thrift in mind: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without". If you have to buy something, try used clothing or thrift stores, particularly those in or near good neighborhoods. I bought a used suit at one about five years ago for $15. It was a name brand suit that I had altered for about $20. I still wear it and it still looks good (I think). Other stores have similar bargains. You just have to be willing to do some hunting.

- Put the kids to work. If you have children who are old enough to work, explain the situation to them, and tell them you need them to help. When times are difficult, everyone should pitch it. It can also help teach children realistic facts of life that will encourage them to continue their education until they get their four year degree or better, or obtain training in a field that is in demand. (It's the most important thing I tell my college students each semester.) Younger children who can't work outside the home, can still help in it by folding clothes, making their beds, straightening up and the like. You need to delegate to keep the house looking good, while you focus your efforts on high order priorities.

- Cut your cell phone bill. Some carriers with basic service are as low as $20 a month. Switch to basic cable and drop the other cable upgrades to save too.

- See if you can make it with one car or take public transportation. In some states, it can mean a substantial savings in auto insurance.

- Pack your lunch. $5 a day for lunch, plus morning coffee, amounts to about $150 a month.

- Stop smoking: Your health will improve, and your car and your home will smell better. It will also eliminate second hand smoke that affects others. If a household smokes two packs a day at $6 a pack, that $12 a day x 365 days in a year for a total of $4380. That could come in mighty handy for someone who has lost his/her job. You'll have a better chance of living long enough to see the light on the other side of the mountain too because you will probably increase your life expectancy also if you quit.

- Free College Tuition: Paying college tuition for your college students can be very untimely if it is hitting you when you're facing an economic downturn in your household. One thing to try is to make your work perform double duty. Many colleges offer free tuition to dependents of employees, so if you have secretarial skills or have the necessary license to be a boiler operator at a college for example, you get paid to work and your children go to school tuition free. Just check first to make sure that is one of the benefits offered at the college you're looking into. You and your spouse may also take courses there too and that can lead to an inexpensive way to partially finance training and education to make a career change.

- Consider selling your home, if you can, and move to an apartment or move in with relatives or friends so you can share expenses. It doesn't have to be for life. You're just trying to get over a rough spot.

- Renting your home is also an option, but renting has problems of its own that you might not need to deal with on top of what you are already facing. If you do decide to rent, be scrupulously careful whom you rent to. Get a credit check, as much of a security deposit as you can by law, and references --- and not just from a prospective tenant's current landlord. They might give their tenants a good reference just so they can get rid of them, so always try to get references from current and former landlords.

4. Finding Work
- The Internet: Check, state employment services, private employment services and other internet job sites. Don't just search your geographic area. Search under job title or category too and see where other openings might be in your field. You may have to move to stabilize yourself again. In any case, it gives you a better view of the employment landscape in the region and throughout the country.

- Network: Let people know about your situation and your need to find employment. Give others an opportunity to help you. If you are a member of a church congregation, let them know, as well as family, friends, and acquaintances. Anyone in sales can tell you that sometime a lead comes from the most unexpected places. E-mail to your e-mail list too no matter where the recipient is located.

We can't always get help, but we can always give it, no matter how challenging our own situation might be. In the process of looking for work for yourself, you might discover information that can help someone else you know. We always still have "the power", no matter how bad things might be for us. We just have to let ourselves use it. In doing so, we raise our own self-esteem, knowing we have done something good. That confidence boost can make a difference in our own efforts.

- Career and Job Fairs: These are held at colleges and at large venues advertised in major Sunday newspaper employment sections. There are also fairs for those in certain specialties, such as health care or computers.

There are also job fairs for minority hiring. If you are a minority person, recognize that companies have these fairs because they are looking to provide an appropriate minority representation in their work force. That can work to your advantage if your qualifications are otherwise good.

You might also determine if you would qualify for "minority status". The law provides specific definitions. It does not necessarily mean that someone has to be a minority only in the publicly viewed, traditional sense. Someone may be enough of a minority to qualify under the definition. There is nothing bogus about this. If the law says that someone qualifies as a minority because of their background, then they are one. An attorney, legal services or a human resources professional can provide advice to you in this area.

- Volunteer: If you can't find a job that pays, look for a place to volunteer where they might be likely to have a paying opening in the near future. The same with part-time work. Get your foot in the door, show them how good of worker you are and build up a group of people who will speak well of the quality of your work, your conscientiousness and punctuality. You can back into a job this way. Don't think the way everyone else thinks. 1000 people don't always have to go rushing trying to get one of 35 available jobs, as was the case recently with firefighting jobs in Miami. Think differently and try some different strategies.

- Try to get on the substitute teacher list for area school districts. (In my state, it requires a minimum of sixty college credits.) Once you get approved, when you're called by the coordinator in the morning, you want to always do a "reverse Nancy Reagan" - just say yes! The more you keep saying yes, the more you're going to get called. If you were a coordinator, calling all around at 6AM in the morning to find a substitute teacher, aren't you going to call the person who always says yes first and make your life easier? This can give you inroads and insights into a school district that could lead to a job as a teacher, teacher's aide or other position later. You are never in a better position than you are being on the inside of an organization to hear what is coming up or to see job postings internally.

- Support Groups: Churches and other organizations run support groups for unemployed workers. This can not only provide useful counseling advice, but can generate information from other participants that can benefit you.

- Outplacement Services: If your company provides services to help find a new job, that's something to take advantage of too. Use the knowledge of experienced professionals who have seen situations like yours many times before.

5. Assess Your Situation and Act Accordingly
Is there a chance you might get called backed to your company? Will you be able to find work in the same industry in your area or elsewhere? Are other suitable jobs available in your area? If you think that there is hope on any of these fronts, you may be better trying to stay where you are. Most people have family and friends in their area and they comprise an important support network in times of stress. They can also serve as a network of contacts that can lead you to another job. You don't have that working for you if you move to a new area where you have to make an adjustment, not knowing anyone on top of it. But if things look grim where you are, you need to consider some other choices:

- Have the major breadwinner move and keep the family in place. This way, the rest of the family can retain some degree of normality, the children can stay in the same schools and there isn't any culture or geographic shock caused by moving to another area, to say nothing of the hassle of moving. Perhaps driving 3-4 hours may produce some better opportunities or even commuting back and forth on weekends from greater distances. It's obviously not ideal, but as things improve in your home area, you can keep looking for something closer. If the new more distant job turns out to be a winner, you can move in an organized manner later to something better.

- Relocate: To take advantage of more distant opportunities, go where the work is. Naturally, this may involve uprooting others and having children attend new schools, but sometimes things are so bad in an area, and so many workers are out of work, moving can help stabilize you sooner with a regular income, rather than trying to stay and hang on where you are. You never know, it may even turn out to be a lot better in many ways, particularly if you move to an area that's not as expensive.

Try to make a positive adventure out of it. Ask yourself where you'd like to go if you could, then investigate opportunities there. My daughter and son-in-law, who are about forty, spent all their lives in Southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia. They had talked for a while about the rising rents and traffic and were thinking about moving - none of which I was aware of. One day my daughter called and said she had something to tell me. She said, "Dad, we're going to move to Montana." That's a long way from New Jersey, but she said they had talked about it and felt good about going. If it was going to be good for them, I was all for it. They're out there now and are very happy with their move and living a more inexpensive lifestyle too. Is there any place you've thought about moving to? Maybe now is the time. Do some investigation, check out the job market, make some phone calls, make an exploratory trip and see what happens. If you are a member of a church denomination that has a church in the prospective area, check through them too to try to get the lay of the land.

6. Make A Smart Move and Re-Train If You Have To
Your goal should be to find a job in a field you will enjoy, with decent pay and benefits, and one that is not readily outsourceable. You don't want to get a job, then lose it because it got exported. Any work that can be done more cheaply outside the US, or that can be digitized, should be viewed with caution. You don't want to have to go through being unemployed again. Naturally if you need a job now, take it, but keep your eye out for something more secure, with better long term prospects.

If you are in an industry that doesn't show much promise for the future, make sure your next move is to a field that offers more long term security. I've listed a number of career fields below that, at this time, show promise for the future. All of these aren't going to be suitable for everyone. Some may be more of an option for college students. While these fields show promise on a national level, check locally to see what the demand is in your own area. There can be regional variations.

- Registered Nurse: This is not just an occupation for women. More men are going into nursing and there is likely to be a continuing need for nurses in the future. It is also a portable skill. Registered nurses can find work in just about any state. Getting into a nursing program may not be easy, but investigate area nursing schools associated with hospitals and community colleges. It might not take as long as you think either. Many nursing programs are two year programs, but a university hospital in Philadelphia just announced a program where the holder of a bachelor's degree could quality to become a nurse through an 11 month program. Check for similar offerings in your area.

If you are a non traditional sex as an applicant, or for a position, it may work to your advantage, so think broadly. It might help. Nursing programs might want to have more male admissions. Engineering and technical programs might be seeking more females.

- Health Care Occupations - There's going to be continuing demand for many health care occupations. See what's in demand in your area. Check with your local hospitals and health care professionals to get ideas for what health care fields need people.

- Pharmacist: A very solid occupation in demand that pays well. To gain more insight, train as a pharmacy tech.

- Elementary and High School Teaching: Look toward areas in demand such as special education, mathematics and the sciences. Areas like English and history may be something you might enjoy more, but the competition for such jobs is fierce. Find out what school districts need. Colleges can tell you what you need to do to get certified to teach.

- Librarian: Professional librarians are not "book shelvers". That's done by student workers, volunteers or other library employees. Librarians today are information specialists. If you have computer skills, that can also be a plus. For the longer term, it's beneficial not to just get a Bachelor's degree in Library Science, but an MLS (Master of Library Science) too.

- Paralegal: Paralegals are in between a legal secretary and an attorney. They can perform functions attorneys perform, such as interviewing clients and preparing documents, but can't represent clients in court as an attorney can. Community colleges have paralegal programs that can be completed in a reasonable time. There will, in my opinion, be a continuing need for paralegals in the future. Law firms have cut down on the number of attorney hires. Some firms find it more economical to hire paralegals to perform certain functions, instead of paying an attorney. When businesses can save money, they are usually going to do it. While it is not essential to do so, attending a program with American Bar Association (ABA) approval is a plus. Ask an attorneys in your area for advice about it.

- Dental Hygienist: The hours are flexible and the pay is good. Don't forget to brush and floss too. (They made me say it.)

- Computers and Information Technology, Computer Maintenance: Seek the guidance of college professors, and from those working in the field, to advise you which areas to enter and which areas to stay away from. Some computer work is being outsourced and you don't want to get into those areas.

- Accounting: The long term goal would be to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

- Laser Technology and Other High Tech Occupations: Community colleges can be a good source of information. Their programs are also usually far cheaper than those of private technical schools. Don't take on some huge loan if you don't have to.

- Federal and State Government: Jobs can get cut here too, but government jobs often have civil service protection and if you are a veteran, you get a veteran's preference on tests for positions. Lists of such positions are readily available through your state, local libraries and the internet. The CIA is advertising for good candidates, particularly if you are knowledgeable in languages in need, such as Arabic. The FBI traditionally has a need for attorneys and accountants.

If you can speak a foreign language, it can be a great assist in finding a job. It helps separate you from the rest of the pack. Just determine what employers would be most likely to be able to use your language skill. If you speak French or Italian for example, contact companies from those countries doing business in the US. Spanish is a big plus with many companies. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the country. Companies need to be able to communicate effectively with this growing customer base.

- Military Service: The military makes cuts too, but they are also recruiting hard.

Keep your eye on internet news on AOL, Yahoo and other websites, and in magazines, for lists of hot jobs, as they can change from time to time and from region to region.

7. Career Areas To Avoid
This is purely my take on this, but I would avoid areas such as:
- Banking: (Continued consolidation eliminates jobs and the financial condition of a number of banks is not great. Additionally, banks don't pay particularly well.)

- Any Lower Level Manufacturing: High tech manufactuing may be fine, but anything at a lower level is consistently threatened by having the work done in countries with cheaper labor.

- Auto Industry: The comeback road will be difficult enough for those already formerly involved with the industry. The key for us is to make more cars with China and India here, putting our workers to work making them. We can compete on quality, but price is something else.

- Outsourceable Work: Any work that can be outsourced to other countries to be done more cheaply, including work that can be digitized. That's why jobs that require physical presence such as nursing, health care occupations and teaching are doubly good.

- Discretionary Spending Occupations: In times of economic trouble, spending for certain things comes to a halt quickly, such as for furniture, recreational vehicles and travel and leisure industries. While they can do well in a good economy, in a downturn they can be one of the first to be hit and to shed jobs.

8. Massive Re-Training and Re-Education
The need for this should have been foreseen and acted upon long ago. Was there anyone in Michigan, Delaware and many other auto states who couldn't see that the auto industry was headed for trouble, even before the recession set in and took matters from bad to worse. I see no realistic way that many of the laid off auto workers will be able to work for their company again, or even in the industry.

The best solution is to re-train for something that is going to be here for the future in terms of service jobs, high tech jobs and others. Re-training is difficult, particularly after many workers have spent decades in another industry, but doing it is going to prepare for a more secure employment future.

The federal government and colleges should have taken a far greater lead toward re-training a decade ago. It could have helped in minimizing today's current crisis. The sooner there is a recognition that it has to be done, and that action is taken to make it happen by the federal and state government, colleges and workers, the sooner the economy is going to recover. Determine where the future is and start re-training for it now.

9. Other Thoughts
- Do Work That Leads To Something Else: Working at a gas station may bring in some income, but it is not going to lead to anything. Working at Wal-Mart or UPS however might lead to an Assistant Manager position, on up. (I would only work in retailing if you think it could lead to something better in the company that pays better than most retailing jobs do. Retailing at lower levels offers notoriously poor pay.)

- Consider Getting A Real Real Estate License - This is an option for someone who does not have a desperate need for current income, but has the time to try to prepare for a future opportunity. This is not likely to be an immediate source of income. The market is slow, or dead, in many areas. It will come back eventually and when it does, you will have gained experience and be ready to handle an onslaught of buyers and sellers. This is not going to happen any time soon, but when it does you want to be licensed and ready to go, not sitting in a crowded real estate school wishing you had a license. Getting a real estate license should not interfere with getting a college degree however, or with working at something more financially lucrative now.

-Ask people for advice. It's not all going to be good, but you will probably make better decisions when cooler heads can give you some input to assist your thinking. Some networking like this can also lead to a job. Some of the people you want to ask for advice are those who are in a position to hire you or to recommend you to others.

- Borrow Money: I put this at the bottom of the list because it's something most people don't want to do, but if you really need money, borrow it from someone who will lend it to you. For anyone reading this who can do the lending, your ability to be there when someone really needs a hand up can make all the difference to a family or an individual trying to get over a rough spot.

10. Maybe You Can Help
President Obama correctly noted in his first prime time news conference that our economic problems are so great, that only government is large enough to make a substantial impact on them. But what has not been said is that there are many people who are not really affected that much by this downturn, who still have resources, a home, purchasing power and money in the bank and in other investments. Such people are also powerful resources to help the nation at this time by helping a neighbor or family member with a loan or by purchasing something now that they were planning to buy soon anyway like a new car, a home addition, vacation, new furniture, television or another appliance. If someone can't find a good deal now, they'll never find one. If those who have resources used them to give a little bump to the economy, it could help people keep working and others from being laid off.

Remember, you are never alone in your struggles. If you believe in prayer, it can help in difficult times like this. Prayer is not necessarily the solution to our economic problems, but something that can help give us the strength to get through tough times. Whether you have religious belief or not, if you need support, speak to trusted family members, friends and professionals who can help give you the support you need to make it through. Nothing lasts forever in life. That's a given.

If what you've tried so far isn't working, you need to try something else. If you keep doing the same things, you'll keep getting the same result. Talk with others and read to get inspiration. Basic self-help reading is important too to keep your self-confidence and attitude pointed in a positive direction.

Don't stay home either. Get out of the house and meet as many people as you can. You may have "chance meetings" with people who can be a help to you. That can't happen if you're inside all the time. Just keep moving forward step by step, trying to make yourself better today than you were yesterday and the future can start to look bright again.

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