Persistence Pays For Job Seekers
by Patrick Cataldo, Associate Dean for Executive Education
While it is true that the daily headlines about the economy are not encouraging, there are two words that should guide those seeking employment in 2009: perspective and persistence.
Maintaining one's perspective is essential. We've been through tough times before. Students of history can even point to a banking crisis that crippled the Roman Empire in the year 33. The point is, things will recover and you've got to be ready for them.
Second—persistence. There may be times when employment seems impossible. Stay the course.
It would be foolish to say the numbers are good. The loss of 533,000 jobs in November was bad. But did you know that, as a percentage of the employed, it was only the 41st highest job loss in our history?
Granted, the picture for current job seekers, upcoming college graduates, and MBAs is not bright, and it doesn't take a Wall Street Punxsutawney Phil to signal that a recessionary shadow will continue well into 2009.
But just like the tough times of 2001, the economy will recover and there will be opportunities for those who are the most aggressive—and persistent—in their pursuit of them. The focus for this year for more than 1.9 million Americans will be finding, applying, interviewing, and getting part-time or full-time work.
These suggestions are offered for current and future job seekers:
- Stay positive—the numbers are in your favor. There are more than 25 million businesses that provide goods and services to fuel the U.S. economic engine. There are jobs out there. Don't be constrained in your thinking about company name, position, starting salary, or location. Adjust your expectations.
- Log on to Web sites like Jobs.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and 47 others (www.quintcareers.com/top_50_sites.html) for proof that there are still available positions out there. For more experienced job seekers, Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of TheLadders.com, provides daily inspirational e-mails to keep subscribers upbeat about getting that next job in difficult times. These free or "for fee" services provide a variety of employment opportunities.
- Continue to network. This is probably the most important ongoing activity you can undertake. And today, it's never been easier. Rely on colleagues, former workers, fellow students, or alumni for "informational" leads. Jack Falvey, author of After College: The Business of Getting Jobs, notes: "There are two doors to enter a company—the front door with a security guard and receptionist and the side door, 'for employees only.'"
- Return to your roots. Consider the vast network of contacts available through your previous associations with colleges or universities, industry associations, or former business colleagues. For example, the Smeal College of Business at Penn State has created a new Web site called SmealConnect. It's available to more than 4,500 Smeal graduates who have signed up and is loaded with job information accessed by keyword search for industry, function, and region of the country.
- For 2009 graduates, explore all your options.
Consider taking any qualification test that might be available either for a government or military position (Civil Service exam, Air Force test for pilot or navigator, etc.).
Investigate graduate school options. While work experience is required for many MBA programs, some may admit select grads right out of college. Consider other master's programs that do not require work experience for admission.
Contact your previous summer employer. See if your past position might be available this year. Even part time it could bring in some money as you continue your job search.
In tight economic times, build your skills with volunteering—it helps you and your community.
Continue an international as well as U.S.-wide job search. The United States Agency for International Development has some interesting opportunities to consider at www.usaid.gov.
Finally, while not for everyone and maybe a last resort, consider finding a company you really want to work for and offer your services "for free" for three months. You'll get an opportunity to prove what you can do and who knows, a position just might open up while you are there.
As I said at the beginning, be persistent—looking for a position is a full-time commitment.
Getting ahead in business requires hard work, drive, and dedication. Finding a new position in a tough economy is no different. For those who have lost a job, outplacement firms provide an environment to pursue a new employment search.
This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.