It’s no news to anyone with a pulse: This is the worst job market since the Great Depression. Each new day seems to bring another corporate bankruptcy announcement or another round of layoffs, or both. The competition for work, as a result, is fierce.
So, what should you do?
Increasingly, some are saying that you should take any marginally acceptable job you can get and hang on until the recovery arrives. With a mortgage to pay and a pesky need to eat from time to time, I can understand that point of view. However, I think it’s wrong, dangerously wrong. Hunkering down puts your career on hold, when you should be fortifying yourself for what is likely to be a challenging decade or more.
So, here’s my suggestion: Look for a “defibrillator job.” That’s a job that will shock your career back into a rhythm that can sustain you even in the face of uncaring and often perverse employers.
A defibrillator job has two characteristic benefits:
- Survival income that pays the mortgage and other bills and puts food on the table. These positions do not draw on all of your talent or capabilities, but they are gainful employment. They also re-establish you in the employed workforce — with the stature inherent in that position.
- Flexibility during the day so that you are able to regain your occupational strength and momentum. Either your work schedule or the demands of the job provide the space you need to focus on expanding your professional knowledge, networking and doing all of the other things that will move your career forward again.
How do you get a defibrillator job? Here are some tips that will get you started. You can read more in my newsletters and blog at Weddles.
Reformat your resume. Change it from the traditional chronological format to a functional one. A functional resume highlights your skills, not your longevity in the workforce. Let’s face it: Employers are reluctant to interview (let alone hire and pay) anyone with 15 years of experience if they think 10 years will do for the job.
Make a commitment. Don’t sign anything unless you absolutely have to, but do verbally commit to staying with the employer for a reasonable time. They know you have the credentials to get something better once the economy recovers so they’ll want a little assurance you won’t leave them hanging. What’s a reasonable commitment? Unfortunately, it’s in the eyes of the beholder. In general, however, it’s more than one year but less than two.
By Peter Weddle, author of Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System, is CEO of three HR consulting companies. Peter is also a partner in The Hay Group and the recipient of a Federal award for leadership-related research. Described by The Washington Post as “… a man filled with ingenious ideas,” he has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment Weekly and CNN.com. He is also the publisher of WEDDLE’s Guides to job boards, which are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the “Zagat of the online employment industry.” His most recent books, “Recognizing Richard Rabbit” and “Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System,” have captured the imagination of readers everywhere with their provocative concepts for successful career self-management in the 21st century. Weddle is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has attended Oxford University and holds advanced degrees from Middlebury College and Harvard University.
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Great tips, Peter! While I’m not eligible to use the functional format (due to my inadequate level of experience), I understand what you are trying to do.
I am just following the trend, and everything is about blogging and “vlogging” nowadays. If you stop by my blog, you’ll see what I mean. In fact, I have even put my YouTube address on my resume as a means for employers to really get to know me.
The idea of a defibrillator job is both interesting and enticing. As an undergraduate student I often find myself hoping to maintain a job, which will pay my few bills, long enough to get out of school. However part of me also longs for a job that will give me the jolt that you talk about. I am aware that I have a long life ahead of me and my job today will by no means be my job after college, never the less I am now encouraged to get out and find a job that will give me a new sense of meaning and purpose. Thank you so much for a wonderful piece.
These are extremely helpful tips, Peter! Being a junior in college, I’m starting to become more concerned with coming across a job once I graduate next year. Even though I have a full year to really start looking, I’m still worried about it. The economy is real bad right now, as we all know, so I have no idea where to look when it comes to finding a decent job when I get into the real world. Your advice and tips about locating a “defibrillator job” and readjusting resumes will definitely be something I’ll have to do in the future when the situation of finding a job becomes more crucial. Any advice about job searching is always appreciated!
I absolutely agree with what is stated here. Finding a job nowadays is difficult, especially for college grads. I have wondered what I’ll do when I graduate in May. I always had the thought process that any job will do; that I will be happy anywhere as long as I’m making money. I didn’t go to college for four years to just settle with the first opportunity presented. I need to find a job where my skills are challenged and have room to further develop and mature. A filler job is something I may need to do while the economy is down, but I don’t want to just settle somewhere because I need money. The content in this blog is something I think all jobless Americans and recent college grads need to take into account.