[New Rules] Seven Job Tips from the Last Four Recessions

Having had the fortune to live and work through four recessions , the dynamics of the employment market and how most companies approach these sorts of times have gotten in better focus than when I first graduated – and encountered my first working-person recession in 1974.

Based on first-hand experiences with those recessions, as well as a personal temperment to be optimistic when I can see a reasonable path being laid for recovery, I expect that I’ll see another four or five recessions before my working days are done.

Here in no particular order are employment market tips from things I’ve learned:

1 – Like a bad migraine, if the recession hits you it feels like it will never, ever end. It will . Even the Great Depression ended – we just don’t know when this recession will end. Best bet if you look at the stats is sooner than you think.

2 – (Still) Like a bad migraine, if it doesn’t hit you – or anyone you know personally – you’ll be long on oblivious and short on empathy. When the dot-com bust hit in 2001, the parts of San Francisco that were tied to high tech, telco, and Internet aspects experienced what was frequently described as “nuclear winter”. Other sectors in the City yawned (such as the housing sector, biotechnology, and some financial services areas) and experienced nary a scratch and kept on moving on. Moral: if you are lucky to miss this recession, help out others who don’t.

3 – Pluck, persistence, and optimism pay off not only in life but in job hunting and other enterprises. Being thorough with your job search is important as well. I’ve had the occasion – unplanned I might mention – to be in job search / role change mode for the all four recessions to hit the US since 1970. It was scary at times. It was not fun. I found jobs that worked all four times. Doing the things highlighted in the earlier series on this blog ("Choose Me, Hire Me") led directly to employment. Taking care of your networks would be at the top of my list.

4 – Employers frequently get very choosy and very slow to make employment decisions during recessions. Like walking on thin ice, there is a hesitancy to commit and offer the hire. With 8.1% unemployment there is 91.9% employment. Jobs will be filled: it will just take longer.

5 – Employees get stressed, even with jobs. Hunker-down sets in and people tend to minimize job hunting least their employer find out, exposing them potentially to being fired with choppy prospects in the job market. But people do look, and do move from one firm to another, creating job openings for other candidates. Efficiency and effectiveness of many firms will drop markedly.

6 – Employers with resources who are bold, and perhaps lucky, can make hay because the recession will immobilize many of their sit-on-their-hands competitors. Making new investments and other unorthodox moves are the types of things that smart employers with resources can do now to take advantage of their position . Those are the employers, given a choice, with whom I’d want to work.

7 – Taking care of yourself and your family is important, even when it feels like all hell is breaking loose. For those who are cash tight, look for things to do that don’t cost much (a walk around a nice park, catching a free concert, etc.) for a mental break amidst the job hunting and job saving activities.

When the rebound comes, rather than very unlikely IF the rebound comes, the hard times will fade – a least until the next recession.