If you haven't noticed, the pink slips are starting to come fast and furious throughout the corporate world. Below are some assorted strategies and collected thoughts if you find yourself out of a job as this recession deepens. Without further adieu ...
1) Most local government procurement is incompetent. If you're acquainted with any local politicians, inquire as to how your city or municipality has responded to the downturn in terms of sourcing/spend and gather what information you can. Tailor your resume to fit an introductory letter about the need for spend enlightenment with real examples of percentage savings in areas where you have reduced costs in your past and current positions with special attention to how you can do this for them.
2) Colleges and universities have had their investment portfolios devastated and are literally holding their breath to see if final tuition payments for the Spring Term come through and how hard they'll be hit by reductions in Fall '09 enrollment. Propose yourself and accumulated sourcing expertise as it would apply to this sector and send it to the appropriate VP's of Operations -- not the current Procurement Director. Think majorly outside the box and be sure to have a close friend or relative with strong writing skills proof and edit your letter and resume.
3) If you've ever thought about working for yourself, now might be the time to experiment. Consider setting up your own small business, establish a web site, and market yourself as an outsourcing alternative for writing RFP's and specializing in your area of expertise with appropriate organizations. This could also lead to future employment opportunities and will keep your head in the game.
4) If you are, or have recently been, employed by an organization that doesn't actively encourage creative thinking and generally has its head in the sand, actively research and seek out organizations that are "taking the bear by the ears" and looking for talented team players in your existing field. There may not be many but they are out there. Show in your cover letter how impressed you are (and why) with their organization and cite specific examples of how you can help them weather the storm and perhaps even take advantage of the current economy.
5) If you are laid off, bear in mind that the decision accrued from crunching numbers. Upon receiving notice, immediately launch your strategy to be re-hired. Call me crazy but stay with me here. Just as an existing customer is a "most valuable asset", so are existing (or just released) valuable employees. Bury your anger, resentment and all that stuff at the moment and tell your boss that you know this was not personal and may you please have a few minutes to chat at her/his convenience. Pledge yourself to the company -- if appropriate, sans the lay-off notice -- sight your accomplishments and value, then propose that you be hired back in some capacity at a reduced salary during these rough times.
This extraordinary tack serves many purposes. Lay-off day for managers is pure hell. You will be exhibiting team spirit in spades, showing incredible fortitude (literally under fire), nailing a great letter of reference and just maybe end up with a job that beats the heck out of unemployment. Currently employed candidates receive the most job offers. At minimum, you'll be on the 'A' list if the company realizes that they cut too deep.
6) Network, Network ... and Network. While you may be tired of hearing this, it's the most generally sage advice you can take. It is possible to find a new position anonymously but not statistically likely. Seeking employment is a full-time job. Some like to benchmark their daily productivity by how many resumes and cover letters they've sent out to the universe. This is not likely to produce positive results on its face. The vast majority of people enjoy helping others but they're not going to call you.
Contact everyone you know, preferably by telephone. Use these calls as rehearsals for actual potential employer contact. Prepare an outline for the call based upon how you think the person might be able to help and don't be shy about asking them to make an introduction for you. This is also why phoning is best. Smile and be up-beat. Know that you will find employment and also know that the time frame is not within your control. Take notes and when you hang-up, rate your impression of that person's value to the search. If it's mid to high maintain contact through emails and follow-up calls -- and of course send "thank you" emails.
Opportunity can be elusive. Call past coworkers, managers, suppliers, providers, other practitioners, friends, acquaintances, clergy, etc. Invite those who are responsive for coffee or breakfast (cheaper than lunch) and use those discussions as mock interviews. Maintaining verbal and face to face contact is essential fuel for the process (i.e., don't permit yourself to become reclusive).
7) It's virtually impossible to not take being laid off as a personal affront. Don't. Of course this is easier said than done. While it's natural to examine your contribution to your current situation, it's only valuable as a learning experience to apply going forward and must never be used for self flogging. Should you find that you're having trouble getting past this phase and do not feel sufficiently up-beat to conduct an aggressive job search, there are many counselors in the market place -- many of whom are slashing fees as a public service -- who can help. Don't put this off if you're stuck in the mud. It can be well worth the investment.
- Jason Busch