Hard Times

We are living in interesting and confusing times. Gas prices have skyrocketed, home prices are dropping, foreclosures are increasing at an alarming rate, and our fearless leader seems to constantly side with big business over the common guy with a problem. There’s only one thing to do – take matters into your own hands.

For example, let’s say that your company has laid you off or looks like they might do so. You have choices to make. Do you want to be the last one out the door and try to hold on as long as possible? If so, it’s time to prove or remind your boss that you are key to the continued success of your company. Sometimes, however, things are beyond immediate control. If your entire division or group is about to be let go, then convincing your manager that you’re the best developer on your team is pointless. So, what’s the plan.

Any job change is a chance to evaluate. You have the opportunity to evaluate what kind of work you’re doing, what you’d like to be doing, where you live and would like to live, and what aspect of the business you’re involved in. This is a great time to be purposeful, not rash. Unless things are extremely tight financially, you don’t have to accept the first job that comes along. Consider whether you’d like to change the kind of software you’re developing or the industry it serves. Have you been writing embedded military software? Would you like to try commercial off-the-shelf instead? Are you a web developer and want to try writing financial software? Try to find someone who does this kind of thing and have a talk with them about your qualifications and their assessment of their industry and your suitability to it. Make connections through linkedin.com or another networking site.

Finding another job is your new job. Plan your attack and your day around this. Do research on your city or another that you might like to move to. Find companies that you might like to work for. Use corporate web sites in addition to careerbuilder, dice, or indeed.com (a great local company search engine.) Spend time every day doing some research on new possibilities. Chech web sites, newspaper want ads, and your people connections.

Make your resume shine by having some other people critique it. It’s never quite as good as you think it is and can always stand another opinion. Keep in mind that several people will have differing opinions. Use some web sites or books for good examples and ideas to improve your resume.

Inside connections, not Human Resources, are your best ways to enter a company. Use your people network to find someone inside the company that can check internal job boards and put your resume on the hiring manager’s desk. Few things are more hopeless than adding your resume to the electronic stack of an online company job site.

Take your time, evaluate what you want to do, reflect on your desires, but don’t get lazy. It’s easy to get complacent at your job and get surprised by a massive layoff. Keep your eye on the corporate bottom line and listen to the tone of your CEO’s statements (especially the internal ones). If your company is listed on a stock market, dropping prices are a sure sign that layoffs could be on the CEO’s mind, even if your company has a history of never having them. Every time you change jobs you have an opportunity to learn something new, find a better place to work, add new experiences, and meet more great people. Job hunting stinks, but it’s a job you’ve got to do once in a while. Make it a rewarding one. And when you land an interview, be sure to read Pimp My Salary for getting your best offer.