Guide to Surviving a Bad Job Market

Know Your Rights

Photo Credit: “Interview” by United States Federal Government/Wikimedia Commons via public domain license

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) outlines that the national employment situation in August 2011 was bleak. With an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent holding steady — this translates into approximately 14 million Americans — it is easy to feel like the job market stagnation will make it impossible to find a job, much less a career position, quickly.

Against this backdrop it is crucial to know your rights after leaving employment — voluntarily or otherwise — and how to secure your fiscally precarious situation, at least in the short run.

Do not overlook the need to continue health and disability insurance coverage for yourself as well as any dependents previously covered. The Internet is an ally when submitting the needed paperwork to receive the funds and benefits to which you are entitled.

Gauge the Changes

Taking stock of the changing landscape that is the current job market is easy to neglect. What used to be a vibrant industry just one or two years ago, now might be closer to a professional wasteland. The BLS highlights that health care and mining are two fields with proven upwards trends, even as the overall growth may be slow. Surprisingly, information industry employment is now on a decline.

Take inventory of industry changes, your skills that come into play, and then revamp your approach to job-hunting by learning how the "game" is played in a waning economy.

Do not neglect to also work on personal reservations and perhaps also retain a healthy dose of apprehension to getting back into the job market. Once again pounding the pavement with a resume in hand is harder, if you have just left a long-term employment situation; even so, working through the worries and fears is possible — and necessary.

Create or Update a Resume

Do you remember when resumes had to be printed on heavy paper and recruiters would urge new college grads to go for off-white colors, in the hopes of standing out from other applicants? These gimmicks do not work anymore. Instead, there is a lingo that has sprung up in the world of job-hunting; getting hip to it now saves a lot of frustration down the line.

Be very mindful of the right and wrong ways to represent your experience and work history on paper. Although it is so tempting to fudge a few details and embellish others, there are very real dangers associated with this practice. Of course, for the downright unflattering facts, there are some work-arounds.

Remember the Cover Letter and Reference Sheet!

Since most resumes will be emailed, faxed or mailed, a cover letter is a crucial way of introducing yourself and also whetting the reader’s appetite for more information.

Just like the resume, the cover letter has evolved to be succinct and contain just a bit of a teaser.

Augment the resume and cover letter with a number of well-chosen references. It is perfectly acceptable to mix personal references with professional ones — as long as they are not bland or grudgingly given.

Going to a Job Interview

The first goal of your job hunt is the invitation to a personal interview. A bad job market has led to only few applicants being invited to these interviews. It is vital to be of the right mindset, well-informed about the company and confident about personal skill sets.

On the flip-side there are times when you may choose to turn down a job interview. Would you know how to do this without burning any brides?

Feeling Comfortable in Your Skin

Fidgeting and the covert scratching — brought on by wearing the itchy dress jacket for the first time in years — do not make a good impression. Know ahead of time how to present yourself in style and comfort.

Coming across as the right candidate also necessitates a measured response to excitement or tough questions.

Accepting a New Position

You did it! You got the job offer! Now what? Weigh the pros and cons of the job offer with care; do not be afraid to think long and hard about the compensation package you are willing to accept.

Once you are on board, get off to a good start by integrating yourself into the workplace, employee community and also beginning to set some boundaries to ensure a healthy balance between work and family life.

Keeping Your Job

Keeping a job is another difficult task in a bad job market. Since the last one in is usually also the first one out, it pays to focus early on job skill enhancements that make you more valuable to the employer.

Be mindful of personal problems that might jeopardize your employment. Know the law — and your employer’s rights — ahead of time to avoid unpleasant surprises and unemployment.

A bad job market makes it tempting to merely throw up your hands in frustration. Nevertheless, there are plenty of Americans finding jobs even in a slow economy; you can easily become one of them.

References