How to get a good job in a bad economy: 7 recession strategies

jobs.jpgJob hunting is tough right now, but absolutely not impossible. The key to finding and keeping work in tough times is the same as in good times: action. The more positive action you take, the better your chances of landing a great gig. Here are 7 tips, and I promise many more in the coming weeks and months.

1. Be smarter, faster and better. I wish I could offer you a magic piece of advice about job hunting and working in a bad economy, a piece of wisdom that I’ve been saving for this type of situation. However, my best advice is to use all of the same job hunting and career management tips I always advise, but do them smarter, faster and better (which, by the way, is the title of a book I co-wrote with the fabulous executive coach Karlin Sloan).

Being smarter, faster and better means:

  • Updating your resume to include examples of how you thrive in challenging times, how you excel at stretching a budget, how you can bring in new clients and new revenue right away.
  • Making 5 calls a day to networking contacts, rather than making 5 a week.
  • Attending one networking event a week, rather than one a month.
  • Following up immediately after you meet someone or learn of an opportunity. Return calls right away, send a thank you email the same day you have an interview, send in a resume as soon as you learn of an opportunity.

In any situation, ask yourself, “What would be the smartest, fastest and best way to handle this situation?” and do just that.

2. Try new strategies. We all get into ruts — going to the same networking events, talking to the same people at our association meetings, setting up the same keywords on the same employment websites, writing the same phrases in every cover letter.

STOP!

The same old stuff will no longer cut it. As Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.To get a job in a bad economy, you have to cast a wider net and be more creative than ever. Try some new and different keyword searches as you look for jobs online. Challenge yourself to attend networking events in totally new industries, towns or social circles. Start looking in the newspaper if you’ve never done that before. Look for jobs at small companies if you’ve always worked for big corporations (and vice versa).

3. Find ways to make some extra money so you aren’t desperate and panicky. Potential employers can smell desperation and it isn’t attractive. If you are totally stressed out about paying the rent, you won’t be in the best frame of mind to conduct a proactive job search. One great way to make some extra cash without working fulltime is tutoring (for high school courses, college application essays, SATs, GMATs, etc. You can apply to tutor for Kaplan, Princeton Review or advertise your services on Craigslist). Bootstrapper has a list of 77 more ways to make money on the side so you can stay afloat while you look for your next career move.

4. Freelance full-time.  You may find that your “on-the-side” gig turns into a new career. That’s actually how I started my own business as a writer and speaker. It happened during the difficult economic period following 9/11. My dot-com job had disappeared and, while I was networking with former clients and colleagues, I started receiving offers to complete small projects for them. I said yes to anything and everything — I wrote marketing plans, nonfiction book proposals, nonprofit grant proposals, resumes, bios and newsletter articles for an hourly rate. I spoke to high school students, Girl Scouts, Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce. As the months went on, I eventually created business cards, a website, a portfolio and a one-pager about my services. That was in 2002 and I’ve never worked full-time again.

Freelancing, consulting and self-employment are not for everyone, but if you’ve been considering entrepreneurship, now might be the time to make the leap. My favorite “starter” books on this subject are Six-Figure Freelancing and Getting Started in Consulting.

5. Move to a city with jobs. If you’ve been thinking about relocating, you might want to consider a place that is thriving despite the economic downturn. BusinessWeek.com has a list of the best places in the U.S. to “ride out the recession.” I don’t necessarily advise uprooting yourself for the potential of a good job, but if you’ve been thinking about moving anyway or have some very strong leads in a thriving city, it could be a smart decision right now.

6. Move to an industry sector with jobs. If you don’t want to move to a new city, pay attention to the industries the BusinessWeek.com article highlights as growing: healthcare, education, law, energy and government. HRWorld offers its own list of top 25 careers to pursue in a recession and Career Hub shares a ranking of 72 recession-proof industries. Consider expanding your job search into one of these industries. For instance, if you’ve been applying to finance jobs on Wall Street, consider applying for finance jobs at a pharmaceutical company or a university. If you’re interested in management consulting, think about a firm that specializes in healthcare or energy consulting. If you’ve thought about teaching, do it!

p.s. If you own your own business or work for a small company, these recession-proof industry lists will help you determine where to pursue new clients and customers.

7. Help other people. Now is the time to be extra generous in helping other people with job leads, event invitations, networking contacts, advice and moral support. When you see a job listing that’s perfect for a friend, forward it with an encouraging note. Call up a fellow job seeker and invite him over for a cup of coffee and a chat. Barter your strengths (editing, public speaking, outfit coordination) with a friend who has strengths that you don’t. “Paying it forward” makes you feel good and it’s bound to come back to you in kind.

Check back for many more posts in the coming months on how to keep your career thriving in this difficult time. And if you have tips to share, please leave a comment!

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33 Comments

    Comment: Posted by Sarah Lawson on June 26, 2013 at 12:25 am

    You give timely advice Lindsey.

    Even though we’re facing difficult times, there’s always something positive to look forward to. Job hunters don’t have to be worry, as long as they take the time to develop essential skills that can land them jobs.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on May 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

    @Malibu – Thank you very much and best of luck to your daughter!
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Malibu Hotels on May 27, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I am also commenting to make you know what a incredible experience my daughter enjoyed checking the blog. She discovered so many issues, which include what it’s like to possess a very effective giving mood to make folks smoothly gain knowledge of specified extremely tough topics. You truly exceeded our own desires. Many thanks for presenting such interesting, safe, explanatory and as well as cool guidance on this topic to Evelyn.

    Comment: Posted by DarDar on January 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I came across your website by way of Google. Since being laid off in 2006 from a major corporation, returned to school and finished graduate degree. Then everything in the economy fell-through. I’ve been working “odd” part-time jobs since that time. Thanks for strategies. They will definitely help!

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on December 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    @James – thanks for the comment!
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by James on December 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Very refreshing advice. I think a lot of people are in sorta a slump where they post to monster and thing “I’m done” that might have worked in 2005, but we’re in a different economy now. (as you pointed out in #2)

    Comment: Posted by Brandon on August 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Great article. I think some of the obvious things like relocate are really scary even though some people know there are more opportunities out there. I know a lot of people that settle with jobs they hate and they make so little for what they do, just because the won’t relocate.

    Comment: Posted by Lee on November 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I know it is hard but try and stay positive. I have been through job lay offs and it takes time to get a good job but keep trying and never ever give up. Eventually someone is going to hire you and you will get a decent salary. You have to be persistent. Once you get a job, be confident. You are just as good if not better than your peers. Remember that. Be confident and be happy. Always show that you are able to take the initiative to get things done.

    Comment: Posted by Faye on August 21, 2009 at 9:03 am

    My boy friend was laid off in March after working for an investment company for 11 months.That was his first and only job after graduated from uni.He has been trying so hard looking for a similar work as an ecnomist or business analyst.He had 9 interviews so far,but he didn’t get any of those jobs.I tried to encourage him,but at this stage,I feel so helpless and desperate myself,I don’t know what else I can do to help him.Our life is stopped,God help me please…

    Comment: Posted by Kym on June 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I need HELP, and I need it badly. I just don’t know what more I can do to find a job. I was laid off a month ago. The unemployment rate in the state that I live in has reached 11.5%. Since I was laid off I send out at least 25 to 40 resumes a day. I search companies on the internet or go to their web site after seeing an ad on TV and search the company web sites for job openings and if they have any I fill out the company’s online application via their web site. I am making phone calls to just receive voicemail after voicemail (and yes, I leave a message). I have tried going through temp agencies, and job fairs (and yes, I am still going to any that I come across). I have my resume posted on about 8 different job posting web sites. I have even tried putting myself out there to do contracting work (doing just about ANYTHING, from walking dogs, virtual assisting, house cleaning, house sitting, etc.) by posting ads on craigslist, taking ads out in local newspapers, and putting flyers and business cards I had made on cars in parking lots in both shopping outlets and business parks during working hours, and still, I have come up empty handed. I have looked into relocating, and have been sending my resumes to employers in different areas and states (still nothing). Last time I found myself unemployed (which was a few years ago) I had another job in 3 weeks. This time it has been over a month and I have only received 1 phone call for an interview. If I can’t find a job in the next two months I am going to end up living out of my car. I just don’t know what else I haven’t done yet?

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    Comment: Posted by aman katter on April 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

    i am dong btech currently and iam worried abt my job
    hoping these tips will help me to prove myself better than thousands of others

    Comment: Posted by Abhishek... on April 14, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Am struggling in a small company in India) as a software developer for past 2.5 years with very low package.I am eager to work abroad what are the proper steps to achieve my target..want guidence

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    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on March 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    @Joe,

    It sounds like you are very frustrated with the job search. Since I specialize in entry-level careers, I would refer you to a great list of the Top 100 Career Blogs, where you are sure to find several experts who specialize in advice for people of your experience level:

    http://www.risesmart.com/risesmart/blog/career100/

    Good luck,
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Joe on March 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I found your article while looking for advice on getting a decent job in this economy. Since losing my job in 2000 due to an acquisition and layoff, the best job I have found pays only $8/hr. and it’s not even in my field. Also, I have two degrees and a very solid track record in the IT/Business Systems arena.

    No one in my field (technology) will even call me back, and that’s after networking AND sending anywhere from 10-20 resumes per week. I possess four different certifications (all current), and have experience working with current technologies (as a consultant, on occasion). And to top it off, my salary request is only $32K, which is extremely modest. They all make the mistake of, after seeing my balding head, thinking that I am “old and stupid.” In reality, I’m neither stupid nor old; I’m only 44! GOOD GOD!

    Anyway, I’ve now gone through the same thing as most people of my age and skillset have gone through. Bankruptcy; lost my car and home; lost my family; lost most of my friends; and yada yada yada. My skills are current; my job search is intense — just as intense as it was back in 2000 — and I’ve had three out of three professionals tell me my resume is excellent and that I bring a lot to the table.

    Sorry for beating around the bush. I’m only writing to let you know that your articles and web site have discouraged me in a very big way, seeing as how your focus seems to be on helping the most employable people in the world (20-somethings) get jobs. That whole paradigm is the reason why I am in this shape — companies are obsessed with hiring extremely young people because they assume — incorrectly — that we “old” (haha) people are stupid and want too much money.

    I’m very discouraged and disappointed. There is no person or group who wants to help me, and the millions like me. Great talent, skill, and motivation… down the drain. Thanks.

    Comment: Posted by Jobs In Pakistan on February 16, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Get good advice on how to get good job
    http://www.empster.com

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on February 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    @Pete – it is a very difficult job market, but there are opportunities. The trick is that you must do more than the basics. Here is a link to an article I recently wrote with tips on how to go the extra mile and find a job in this economy. Hint: first stop, your college’s career services office (even if you’ve already graduated).

    http://tinyurl.com/9zj5c9

    I hope that helps,
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Pete on February 1, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    How do I get a job, or what jobs can I get if I have never worked before but am attending a 4 year college?

    I’ve tried writing a very good cover letter, but providing a jobless resume to phone retailers and general retailers.

    I’ve yet to get a a positive response.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on January 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    @Viki –

    I’m glad you took time to write. There are dozens of articles on this blog with tips to help people job searching in this dismal economy. There is also a long list of other blogs I recommend in the “Links I Like” section on the right side of the blog.

    If you are willing to move, the best first step is to reach out to everyone you know – friends, family, etc. – and tell them what kinds of jobs you’re looking for and that you’re willing to move. Ask people to keep an eye out for you and let you know anything they know is available.

    Good luck and hang in there. You WILL get a job. If necessary, you might need to ramp up slowly — working retail, babysitting, temping, etc. — to get through the next few months. Many people are doing this and it’s a fine strategy until things turn around.

    Good luck,
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by viki on January 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Im glad to see everyone so dam chipper. Im in Michigan and it freakin sucks here! I want to pull my hair out and fill a room with tears! Im graduating im may and I have had two shi**y interviews with marathon pipelines llc and target as a team lead which one my gpa want not high enough and the other I didn’t get. I would move pretty much anywhere to get a start. Our B school job fairs suck really bad and my GPA is like a 2.3 from trying to stay alive! I have a lot or retail experience along with a couple of glass ceiling internship and a student assistant administrative work study job. If I drank alcohol, I would be a drunk from the stress! I feel hopeless HELP!

    Comment: Posted by Ano on January 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Get good advice on how to get good job

    http://howtogethighpayingjob.blogspot.com/

    Pingback: Posted by How to get a job: 11 new tips | Lindsey Pollak Blog on November 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    [...] When people ask me how to get a job in a bad economy, my answer isn’t particularly earth shattering: Do everything you did in a good economy — have a terrific resume, cast a wide net in your search, network effectively — just do it all smarter, faster, better and more often [...]

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on November 6, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    @Joe – Why are you sorry? Networking is hugely important and always part of a job search in any economy. Thanks for reminding us that networking should be included in any list of tips.

    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by joe on November 5, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    I’m sorry but you forgot to mention one MAJOR point … you need to KNOW people. In bad economic times, jobs are scarce. When you are fresh out of college and have no professional experience, the only way to land a job is to know someone who can give you one.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on October 28, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    @Cheryl – Thanks so much for the comments and for your positive outlook. I agree that recent college grads will be in a better position than most during this downturn — as long as they stay positive!

    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Cheryl on October 28, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Great advice Lindsey! I absolutely love these tips and think you are exactly right.

    Even a gloomy economy has some bright spots. In fact, looking for a job in a shaky economy can sometimes be a very solid move. Savvy job-hunters boost their chances of success by understanding what they truly want and by excelling in their current position.

    For recent college graduates, the job market is relatively healthy. Employers expect to hire 8% more college graduates from this year’s class than the class of 2007, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And while some industries are losing ground, others are growing. Healthcare, professional and technical services are all adding jobs, according to a July 2008 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Forward-thinking companies are also continuing to hire in anticipation of large-scale Baby Boomer retirements. In 2008, the oldest Baby Boomers reach 62 and about half are planning to retire, according to the Social Security Administration.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on October 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    @Patty – Thanks so much for the comment. Looking forward to meeting you next week and helping you develop strategies for the current economy!

    Lindsey

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    Comment: Posted by Patty on October 20, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    As a sophomore magazine major at Syracuse University, I can definitely relate to everyone’s anxiety as the job hunt comes closer! Good internships outside of New York City seem harder and harder to find. The recent economic downturn has changed everything, and people are getting so nervous about graduation and next career steps. I can’t wait to meet you next week at our ED2010 function with you, Lindsey, and hear what you have to say about this!

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on October 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    @Saira – thanks for the comment. I think Idealist.org is great and I’m glad to hear you’re putting all of these tips into practice. Keep us posted on your success!

    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Saira on October 19, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    These are exactly the things I have been doing to go along with my job search (except leaving my beloved NY of course). Thank you for these new resources. I’ve gotten positive results from idealist.org, which posts many non-profit job opportunities at all levels.

    Comment: Posted by Matthew on October 19, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Lindsey – People are freaking out about the economy but honestly there are still jobs out there. Here are 3 job sites from About.com’s top 10 job site list.

    http://www.linkedin.com (networking)
    http://www.indeed.com (aggregated listings)
    http://www.realmatch.com (matches you to jobs)

    Whole top 10 list here:
    http://jobsearch.about.com/od/joblistings/tp/jobbanks.htm

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