Turn Trauma Into Triumph

You can find a job during a recession

by Teresa A. Whitacre

Reports of actual or potential job cuts fill the media these days. Some of the layoffs are in the hundreds or thousands.

Losing a job is always traumatic at any time but, for obvious reasons, even more so during a recession. I lost my job during the first quarter of 2008. The tips that follow tell how I turned the trauma into a triumph.

Get yourself in order

The stress of job loss affects each person differently, both physically and emotionally. Give yourself a short time to recover—whether it is a few hours or a few days. Do more than lie in bed and watch television.

Take a walk, treat yourself to an extra cup of coffee, phone a friend—do whatever you can to get the shock, stress and emotions out of your body and mind. Don’t ruminate over the loss or allow it to consume you so much that your health suffers.

In my case, I experienced negative feelings but quickly decided I would not be effective at job seeking or interviews if I did not feel 100% like I normally do. It’s important to give yourself the time you need—as much as your finances allow—to put your best foot forward and demonstrate to potential employers or clients the strong quality professional you are.

Surf the net with care

The internet, where you can find information on companies, people, salaries and current job openings, is a good place to start when making a career move. One particular site I found effective is www.indeed.com. The site pulls in jobs from other job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Yahoo Hot Jobs, USA Jobs, and local or regional newspapers, depending on the ZIP code entered.

LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com is a useful professional networking website. On the site, you can invite others to join your professional network, have them write recommendations about you and do the same for them. Once you get linked with others in your networking circle, you can link with professionals they know, thereby creating an even larger network for yourself. There is definitely safety in numbers.

Make sure anything you post on the internet is strictly professional. Stay away from sites like MySpace and Facebook, as they tend to be more personal. Employers often look through these sites to discover your political views, your partying habits or anything that could tell them you might not be a good fit for their organizations.

Use sales and marketing skills

Job searching and interviewing is selling a product: you. Successful job seekers know more about sales and marketing than they realize. When I thought of myself as the sales and marketing department promoting myself, I was much more successful in getting interviews and offers.

It’s easy for a job seeker to send out countless résumés via e-mail, then wait for job offers to roll in. The result can be frustration and the temptation to give up.

But think of yourself as a marketer when you e-mail, mail or telephone. Prepare great material for your résumé, cover letter and references; know the product (you); and be ready to sell.

Explain the benefits of your experience, education and certifications. Tell what you liked about previous employers and jobs. Market your strengths, and soft sell your weaknesses. Show potential employers what your product—again, you—can do for them. They want the whole package, so market that.

I personally tested each one of these approaches. My results were gainful employment in the same field, without relocation, within five weeks. This proves it’s possible to find employment in down times.

Teresa A. Whitacre was recently hired in the quality assurance department of a medical device start-up company and is the owner of Marketech Systems in the Pittsburgh area. She is a senior member of ASQ and holds an MBA and ASQ certifications of quality auditor, quality engineer, quality manager/organizational excellence and Six Sigma Green Belt. Currently Pittsburgh section secretary, Whitacre is a long-term instructor for quality inspection certification for the section.

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