By Jeremy Thorn

This recent recession has not produced just a ‘credit crunch’. It has created a devastating ‘career crunch’. Not only are school-leavers and new graduates finding it harder than ever to get their careers started, many experienced employees are facing redundancy or at least career-stagnation. The consequence is a terrible waste of talent that we can ill-afford to lose.

Maybe you are not faced with this dilemma yourself, but you will almost certainly know many close to you who are. They could be family members, past or present colleagues, or others in your social circle.

What can be done to help?

The best solution may well be self-help, but others (including you!) can help by offering objective and independent support, just as any professional coach might. Well-meaning outsiders can certainly offer moral support and encouragement, which can be priceless, and suggest contacts who might open new doors. They may also have invaluable new insights, suggestions and even novel ways forward that might not have been open to consideration before.

So here are ten tips that you might well want to use yourself, or pass on. An extended version of these tips is available on a free report from The Academy for Chief Executives

1. Make looking for a job, a job in itself.

Even in good times, it is not unusual for management candidates to have to spend at least six months from start to finish before landing the next job. In bad times, it may take much longer. Job-hunting therefore clearly merits full-time effort and dedication.

2. Process and Plans

Looking for a new job should be like planning a sales campaign. What does the market want, when, and what have we got to offer? Who makes the purchasing decisions, and who influences them? What are competitors up to, and how can we differentiate ourselves from them to our advantage?

3. Stay positive — and surround yourself with positive people.

In a really tough job market, retaining one’s selfbelief and confidence may seem a fond hope. Job-hunting can be deeply demotivating, especially when it is accompanied by seemingly endless rejection. However, no recruiter will be impressed by a candidate with a hang-dog, ‘I’ll never get another job’ outlook, any more than a prospective buyer might be convinced by sales people who don’t believe in their products.

4. Take a personal inventory

Make a comprehensive list of all your strengths, skills, personal qualities and past experiences. Many find this quite a difficult challenge because they may readily undervalue strengths which they take for granted, but others might not. Cast the net wide! At this stage, avoid any tendency to self-censor by assuming your gifts may not be relevant, or even inadequate.

5. Get others’ views.

Seek out those who know you well, whom you can trust to give you an honest, objective, preferably positive but certainly realistic over-view of your list above, without any vested interests in either building you up unreasonably – or knocking you down.

6. Look for new development opportunities

However unpleasant a career crunch may be, it can often provide an invaluable stimulus to consider new opportunities never considered before — so take a tip from Baden-Powell’s Scouts and ‘look wide’.

7. Decide what works best for you

In exploring novel or unexpected opportunities, it is also important to remember that recessions don’t last for ever. You may still have a career to build for better times and taking a job that won’t suit you may be very short-sighted.

8. Get networking!

It is a wonderful thing: most people love to help others when asked in the right way. That is the power of networking. If you have ever had any experience of ‘out-placement’, you will know that this is a major part of job hunting. But it is important to do it right.

9. Set some targets — but don’t set yourself up to fail.

Some people may like the idea of firing off large numbers of unsolicited job applications to see what might turn up, but most find such a scatter-gun approach unproductive and demoralising. Taking a much more carefully targeted approach to explore new opportunities, with careful prior research and a tailored CV, may be time far better spent.

10. Find a mentor

Finally, don’t think you have to do all this on your own? Good friends, family members and ex colleagues might all help. If you can find someone who has some practical mentoring experience or formal coaching skills, even better. Most professional coaches will almost certainly want to charge for their time, but some may at least offer a free initial session and you may even find someone training to be a coach who might be delighted to have someone to practice with at no charge.

And finally – have a Plan B

Today, perhaps you may be able to help others caught in the career crunch. But nobody is immune from career dislocation, so never forget your own career development.

Tomorrow — who knows? Developing your own network and coaching skills can certainly help. But what else might you do to make yourself more employable
should the worst happen?

As Field Marshall Lord Montgomery famously suggested, and Heroclitus some 2,500 year’s earlier: “Expect the unexpected.” You might particularly welcome the thoughts of James Yorke, distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the University of Maryland and a specialist in chaos systems, who has suggested that everyone should have a Plan B. What a great piece of advice in such uncertain times!

Have you got your ‘Plan B’?

I wish you all good fortune.

Jeremy Thorn

An extended version of these tips is available in a free report from The Academy for Chief Executives

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