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Employment in a Recession

Where I grew up, creatures of the forest would be the hungriest in early spring. Summer left plenty for the fall and early winter. As winter's cold grasp diminished and the sun began feeling warm on flesh, new foliage did not yet have time to grow. Animals would often falter in the warm breeze of early spring.

If you are an employee, the current economic downturn can feel frightening. Entire industries and cities have been affected by lack of demand for products and services. Companies do what they must to survive. They cut back on spending. They cut back on jobs.

The unemployment rate in the United States reached 8.1% in early 2009. According to a recent Reuter's poll, it is expected to rise as high as 9.6% early next year. Experts do not all agree on what will happen, but they do agree that unemployment will grow worse before it grows better. Spring rustles.

During the Great Depression, my grandparents went from riches to rags almost overnight. They had enormously bad timing. They lost hope. They gave up. I feel great sadness knowing this is in my history. America was built on the idea of creating your own opportunity and overcoming obstacles. Given we are in the worst recession since World War II, it is our time to step up to the plate.

This means the government needs to aggressively control costs, decision making based on fund raising opportunities, and corruption. Corporations need to do the right things, not just the greedy things. Government and corporations have both lost the trust of the people. We are the government, the corporations, the small businesses, and the workers. If you can do something to make one piece of the framework better, smarter, leaner, less greedy, more trustworthy it is time for you to step up to the plate.

On a personal level, we can prevent some of the problems my grandparents experienced through preparedness and action. Everybody's situation is different. Evaluate your situation. Form a plan. Prepare. Act.

Evaluate Your Situation

It is hard to face our own obstacles, but if we do not work towards removing them, they usually fester. My feeling is to depend on myself to come up with the solution to my family's survival. Requiring government, unions, "The System", others to provide is not an answer I am willing to live with. We have to produce items other countries might want, be smarter, and find ways to help others.

Questions to ask

  • Do you anticipate your company and your industry remaining stable during this downturn?
  • What would be the result of losing your job?
  • Do you have friends that respect your work and would help you find a new job if in need?
  • Are you well positioned with the right skills?
  • Can you bridge a difficult time financially?
  • Do you have a backup plan?

Form a Plan

People have different reactions to adversity. They are not always logical. Avoiding a situation or stringing it along can seem like the safest route, until the route ends. When the route ends, often there are few choices and little time. For example, the phrase "Corporate Downsizing" usually implies that many others in your company with a similar skill set are all being laid off all at the same time. How easy is it to find a job in the same location when competition is high during an economic crisis?

If you can see the writing on the wall, that your company will likely fail, it is safer to begin your efforts now. The more money you hope to make, the longer the average time it will take to find a new job. In an average climate it can usually takes six to nine months to find a new job paying $150k/year. You may have to retool your skills.


An important first step in solidifying your position during an economic downturn may be to look at the industries within your community. It may pay off determining which company is most likely to survive that could utilize your skills. Educate yourself to position your skills for that job.

Write your resume. Have both hard and soft copies. Post your resume on several online job sites. Of course we recommend posting your resume here on by clicking on the post resume link above, but you should post it on other sites as well. Most people think they should only have their resume active when they are looking for a job. This is not the case. Great opportunities and salary increases could be passing you by just because your resume is not active.

Perhaps most importantly, network. Reconnect with people from your past. It may be that the person who ran the student council in high school, partied with in college, or used to work with and respected your skills is now in a position to help. Often people would prefer to hire those that they know and can trust. In the very least they may be able to provide you leads and ideas. Be in touch with your past.

What now?


Now that you are prepared, it may be time to act. Actively post your resume to jobs. Use online job search engines for all they are worth. At you can post your resume directly against a job. When you do, the employer is emailed a link to your resume and can contact you based on the information you have provided. You should do this on multiple job sites.

If a company shows interest in you and responds, be primed.

Very often a company will now want to see a hard copy of your resume. It should be impeccable. Look through many different formats and find one that works best with your needs. Customize it to the job that showed interest. Have others review it that have experience in resume creation. There are many ideas on how to best focus a resume, but that will be left to other articles. As with your resume, prepare a cover letter that is specific to the company interested in you. Your cover letter is the marketing for your resume. It is often the first thing your employer will see.

Assuming you get the interview, don't be late. Be presentable.

Having conducted many interviews, one of my first questions would inevitably be "Why did you choose our company to interview with?" You might be surprised with how few people answer this question well on the spot. One time, when I asked a MIT student this question in an interview, he replied "Because this is where they sent me." No, this was not the right answer. This may be the honest answer, but it definitely did not help him get the job.

When getting ready for an interview, study the company. Be able to answer not just why you want to work there, but why you are their best choice. If the employer feels your enthusiasm, they may feel you will go above the call of duty and choose you when all other things are equal.

Spring has sprung. Let it bring you competence, a good plan, and the strength to act on it. We here at wish you the best of luck during these difficult times. We hope we can help.

John Eichelsdorfer

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