Planning Your Career for Tough Times

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Planning Your Career for Tough Times

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As a result of the current global downturn, many workers have been laid off, and jobs have become increasingly scarce. In the United States the jobless rate rose from around 4.5 percent in December 2007 to near 9.5 percent by May 2009—the highest in over 25 years. Experts are predicting an even higher rate of unemployment by the end of 2009.

The predictions about increasing unemployment have recent and upcoming college graduates and even seasoned workers wondering about their careers. What can a person do to give himself or herself "an edge" in such a competitive job market?

Loyalty and competence

Proverbs 25:13 points out that someone who is faithful in his or her responsibilities is as refreshing and perhaps as rare as a cool snowfall in the heat of the summer harvest season. Surely such a worker would be recognized, valued and retained—or quickly hired when identified.

As one who had to search through a long list of potential employees for a dependable receptionist and secretary many years ago, I can personally vouch for the fact that employers love to identify and hire faithful workers. And if there comes a time when some workers must be laid off, faithful workers are the last ones an employer wants to lose.

At Quintessential Careers (, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development Web sites, is an article by founder Dr. Randall Hansen titled "Seven Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Career." Here he advises those who have a job to "become a company man or woman." Never be seen or heard bad-mouthing the organization, he warns. Instead be seen as a staunch supporter of top management and the organization.

"Being labeled a company man (or woman) sometimes has negative connotations among your peers, but workers who have questionable loyalty to the organization will be the first to get fired—even before more incompetent but loyal workers. Loyalty matters that much, so make the effort to be both extremely competent and loyal." Staying current on news about your company, without appearing to be involved in gossip, is also helpful.

Experts also point out the wisdom of always keeping your résumé (curriculum vitae or CV in Britain) up to date along with focusing on professional development and additional educational opportunities. Anything you can do to make yourself more valuable to your current company or a potential employer will be worth the effort.

Guard your reputation

While networking remains a major tool for job-seekers, experts caution that what you post on social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) should be cautiously guarded. Companies can go to such sites to screen applicants. You and your friends might think it's funny to joke about an indiscretion or use off-color humor, but a company considering you as a new potential worker might see the same post as a "lapse of discretion."

Your name and reputation are always important. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes tells us, "A good reputation is better than expensive perfume" (7:1, Good News Bible). Ecclesiastes 10:1 makes a graphic comparison: "Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom" (GNB). It would be terribly shortsighted to allow one stupid post to cause you to miss out on a good job.

Five more tips

Ardith Weiss, director of Counseling and Career Services at the University of Texas at Tyler, acknowledges that it can be easy to become discouraged when hiring is down and to succumb to the fatalistic view that the job realm is hopeless. Though the outlook may not be as uplifting as in the past, the fact is companies will continue to hire. They'll just be more selective about their choices. So it is certainly in your best interest to be the most desirable candidate you can be.

In an article titled "Are You Recession Proof?" Weiss gives five tips for finding a job: start early, conduct informational interviews, network constantly, research companies, and practice, practice, practice interviewing (HBCU Career Guide, Vol. 7, May 2009).

Rather than wait until you are close to graduating, visit your school's career center early to get help in developing a first-class résumé and to practice interviewing. The more you practice, the less intimidating a real interview will be.

In fact, conducting your own informational interviews is a good way to become more knowledgeable and comfortable in meeting with professionals. Find someone who does what you'd like to do for a living and set up a time you can interview him or her to find out all you can about that line of work. Even though you are just asking questions—and not asking for a job—you will learn a lot about how to discuss that career track. An added benefit is that you will already be networking. Those you interview can act as contacts for you when you begin your job search in earnest.

Recruiters comment that students often fall short of employer expectations in the area of knowledge about the company or organization where they are interviewing. You can help make yourself stand out from the rest by gathering as much information as possible before the interview. Know the company's basic history, what it does, size, where they are located, even its major competitors.

Doing your homework will make it easier for you to discuss how your qualifications match the company's needs. Your school's career center can help you with information about where to do the research as well as help you practice for the interview.

Planning ahead is always a good step. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, "If your ax is dull and you don't sharpen it, you have to work harder to use it. It is smarter to plan ahead" (GNB). Don't wait until you are laid off to make yourself more valuable to your current employer, or until you graduate to make yourself a better candidate. Start now to make yourself recession-proof. VT

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