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Publications > Dateline Houston > October 2002 > Feature Article

Volume 42, Issue 2

October 2002

Being Prepared in an Uncertain Job Market

by Jeff Staples, Information Developer, BindView Development

Earlier this year, I was laid off when my company had another round of staff reductions.  Fortunately, three weeks to the day, I was able to accept another position. This article conveys my thoughts on my job search, and I hope it provides insights helpful to you, should you find yourself in a similar situation because of the uncertain job market.

Hindsight versus Foresight

The layoff came as a surprise to me, because I was one of the ones laid off. However, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Anyone is a possible layoff candidate, and we employees knew that something was coming. Yet knowing that, I did nothing to prepare, should I be let go. Or didn’t I?

Taking Precautions

My resume and portfolio were not updated. I had not kept up-to-date with the job market, other than what I heard from others or read in the newspaper, which was generally bleak news. However, I have cultivated a large network of contacts over the years. So, I could congratulate myself on some preparation: maintaining my network of contacts.

Day One and Beyond

The day after the layoff, I set up a personal e-mail account and began contacting everyone I knew, both personally and professionally. Over the next few weeks, that formed my workday: sending e-mail messages to contacts and responding to job postings, and then replying to responses I received. It might not sound like much, but it can easily fill your time. I kept the same schedule as when I was employed, but my work and focus were on finding a job.

Connection Waiting to Happen

You never know where the right connection might come from. I learned about STC in late ’92, when I was out of a job after my employer closed the office. I mentioned STC to my neighbor, and she knew of it through a relative. She gave me the person’s name and said to mention that she was my neighbor. A couple of months later, I met the relative at an STC meeting and she put me in touch with a contact that would eventually give me my first tech writing job.

Contacts Come Through

My current employment came about by trying to forward a lead to someone else. In the process, I got the e-mail address of a former coworker that I had forgotten about. I sent her a message to touch base. She requested my resume, and submitted it to HR at her company. The company wasn’t hiring at that time, but my resume was on the desk of the HR representative when a position suddenly became available.

Search Tips

From this recent experience, I learned to

  • Create a personal e-mail account. You can get one for free. (After you are employed, consider using this account for all of your personal email. It will help keep personal items out of the company’s e-mail system.)
  • Tell everyone you know about your availability. You never know who can make the right connection for you, or you for them.
  • Create a spreadsheet with your contacts’ information and record when you contact them, whether you attached a resume, and whether they made any response.
  • Visit online job services such as Hotjobs on Yahoo. You can post your resume there, search their job database, and get useful information, such as tips on phone interviews.  And update your resume weekly. Update notices are sent to all agencies and firms each time you update your resume.
  • Maintain your work schedule. Having a routine helps you maintain your focus, confidence, and a positive attitude.
  • Attend job networking activities frequently, such as professional meetings. I learned of job network ministries operated by various churches. One contact mentioned that she attended a weekly meeting where she usually got good leads and good support.

Before You Get Escorted Out

In the past, I focused on a job search only when I needed a job. Now, I have learned to keep my job search current by keeping up with the job market and keeping my resume and portfolio up to date. Also, I try to be a contact for others. As I find job leads that are not right for me, I try to send them to others in my network.

In today’s economy, who knows when you might find yourself in the unemployed pool. When you are the last one hired, it’s hard not to wonder if you will be the first one fired. You can reassure yourself that if you are let go, you have made preparations to soften the impact.

Jeff develops print and online documentation for a local software company and serves as managing editor of the STC Quality SIG newsletter, Doc-Qment.

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