Job Hunting During a Recession

6 Myths About Job-Hunting During a Recession

By Cherie Berkley

The job market is tight. Competition is stiff. But, if you are one of the thousands tasked with getting a new job in this poor economy, all is not lost. Hopefully, you can move more quickly from the unemployment line to a job offer once you get past these six common myths about job-hunting during a recession.

Myth No. 1: No one is hiring during a recession.
Layoffs are happening, but some employers - even those laying off workers -- are still hiring. Companies often eliminate full-time employees with budget-busting benefits only to replace them with contractors or consultants to save costs. Additionally, "green" jobs and health care jobs are among those still actively populating want ads. And, the pay is respectable. For instance, Payscale.com shows the median annual salary of an environmental engineer with 3-5 years experience is $60,672.

Myth No. 2: The Internet is the best place for finding jobs in a recession.
The Internet is an efficient way to survey jobs among many companies, but personal interaction is still the smartest way to find a job during a recession. Truth is, employers are bombarded with thousands of resumes from the Internet. Therefore, the chance that your new boss will choose your resume out of a pile of prospects is slimmer than ever. Instead, focus on finding a position, apply for it, and then do some research and connect personally with a hiring manager in the company to follow-up. Social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, also offer a great way to connect with targeted employees on your company dream list. These connections are golden because they can give you insider info about unpublished positions and help you sail past HR "blockers." Personal recommendations go much farther in landing a job during a recession than random resumes.

Myth No. 3: Searching companies in hiring freezes is a waste of time.
Like many situations in life, hiring freezes are not absolute. Savvy networking, the right face-to-face meeting, and the ability to sell skills critical to the prospective company can be the perfect formula for lighting a fire under an employer in a hiring freeze. Behind closed doors, hiring managers are told to make exceptions for spectacular candidates that can show them the money, especially in a recession when every dollar counts.

Myth No. 4: Expect a salary cut during a recession.
In hard times, companies value astute problem solvers more than ever. While employers may trim the fat elsewhere, there is always room in the budget for salaries of top-tier talent. However, in a competitive job market, there is a bigger burden to prove you are worth a higher salary, John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says.  Ultimately, companies want their talent investments to pay off -- and stick around. "If an employer goes to the expense, time, and effort to find a qualified candidate, it wants the person to stay," Challenger adds. The last thing an employer wants is for a prized candidate to temporarily accept a lower salary than her previous salary and say "hasta la vista" once the job market recovers.

Myth No. 5: Companies are not interested in hiring people over age 55.
There are several reasons Challenger, Gray & Christmas disputes the adage that older employees are unemployable. In a struggling economy, employers value seasoned workers' shorter learning curves (aka: less money invested in employee training) and their ability to do the work of several younger, less-seasoned workers. Separately, like a fine wine, experienced employees who are surgeons, accountants, attorneys, engineers, and IT professionals get better with time. Clients gravitate to more experienced employees in these professions. This adds up to more cha-ching for employers.

Myth No. 6: Experience and advanced degrees guarantee a job during a recession.
While experience and education have their plusses, they aren't guarantees to landing a job during a recession. In a deep job recession, experienced and degreed people come a dime a dozen. "It is very important to sell your world experience, your concrete accomplishments, and expertise; things that make an impact on the company rather than just your knowledge," Challenger says. Research what skills the employer values most in order to tailor your sales pitch accordingly, Challenger adds. And, because the market is so tight, though you are experienced, someone with more experience is likely applying for the same job. Take time to create your brand image and sell, sell, sell!

Sources:  Challenger, J. Interview, Feb., 2009. Challenger, J. "The Job Hunt, Don't Be Sidetracked by Myths About Today's Job Market." Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc.

Looking for more resources for your job hunt during a recession? Check out these articles:

Recession Proof Jobs
5 Ways to Recession Proof Your Income
Backup Career Plan During a Recession

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