Where are the jobs? Some tips and cheer for tough times

The double digit 10.2% unemployment figure in the US is somber, more shattering is the broader measure of 17.5% that NY Times is reporting. Where are the jobs ? is the question across all age groups in the US.

Some  years ago, we had a recruitment consultant speaker at  one of the associations I am involved with. A participant asked the  question: What should someone who is 60+ and looking for work- do? The speaker was a seasoned older professional from New York and not used to mincing his words …. ” This did not happen to you suddenly” was his answer, which I thought was rather cruel at the time.But today when I think about it, we tend to neglect our own professional development , even when everything is going rather well. Today,when entire industries like auto, banking  and their value chains are tethering ,suddenly things look real bleak.Here are some tips for college students and beyond:

For College Students

If you are in college avoid “hobby” majors : Hobby majors are those that are fun to study but do not get you a job immediately on graduation. If you have the finances to study graduate school immediately then hobby majors are  fine but then you don’t really need a job. Choose something that gets you into a growth field right after a college degree. Here are the top 50 from CNN.

For Mid Career and later

If you have a job try to  add a skill or qualification – that has upcoming demand in your industry and beyond. Think global. Some markets are growing (China,India,Brazil) and add country skills.If you don’t have a job – its the hardest. Be prepared to move to wherever the jobs are – in the world. Not the time to only consider jobs within 10 miles!

Popular lore has it that with successive technology and globalization related changes you should be prepared to switch careers at least three times, in life. This could involve retraining, starting at the bottom again (my then boss  in industry asked me this incredulously when I announced my move to academia several years ago).

For all

  • Read the book  “What Color is Your Parachute ?This is the all time classic on job hunting.
  • Get involved with your professional organizations – try to attend all meetings you can and volunteer if possible. My estimate is that less than 50% of any profession’s members actually become members of the professional association unless legally required to do so. Of members only 20% -30% attend meetings and less than 5% are willing to volunteer their time. Naturally, those who spend the time find opportunities that are still on the drawing board let alone on the job board.

Landmark research by Granovetter  suggests that you should ask your friends’ friends for job leads. Your friends are good (like Seinfelds’)  but they know the same familiar people as you do so no new network effects happen.

Above all, try to remain cheerful- think of your friends , their friends and who they might  know and recall Seinfeld’s famous line “These are my friends…..??”

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