Preparing for the New Normal

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After the 2001 recession, the national unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 percent in 2002, and peaked at 6.3 percent in 2003 before falling back to 4.6 percent for 2006 and 2007. Most economists agree that we may never see employment numbers this low again.

The current wave of unemployment has brought more focus to what economists define as long-term unemployment, or a period of unemployment lasting six months or more. Estimates are that more than five-million people, or approximately one-third of the unemployed, are currently in this category. Many in this group derive from industries that will never rebound, such as the automotive and manufacturing industries.

Playing the Waiting Game

In earlier articles, my colleagues and I discussed how some people have decided to get additional training, or go back to school, in order to become more employable. The reality is that these are not viable alternatives for everyone.

We see people facing unemployment for the first time after years of steady employment in their respective fields. Unemployment benefits have served as a stop-gap measure as people readjust their way back into the workforce. Unfortunately, this readjustment period now takes longer on average than it did in the past.

Doing What It Takes To Survive

So, what does all of this mean? It basically means that life, on the professional scale, may never be the same for some of us.

One of my best friends has decided to give the sales industry a try after looking for a job in his field for almost two years. All of the offers he received from his old industry were nowhere close to what he was earning. Another friend, who has seen her industry decimated by economic decay, recently decided to take the kids out of daycare and become a stay-at-home mom. She then took some photography courses and now does freelance photography, at weddings and other small engagements around town, to supplement their family income.

My neighbor even leased out part of his home after a long layoff. He eventually accepted a job paying half of what he had been making and actually feels fortunate that he was able to keep his home while working through an extremely difficult period.

Stay Vigilant and Be Proactive

There are no simple solutions in our current economic landscape, and things are not going to improve overnight. Some employers believe that there could be atrophy in your skills, or that there could be other underlying reasons why you have not found work. Try to counteract this sort of thinking by accepting temporary or consulting assignments. You will earn some money, but just as important, you will instill confidence in potential employers that you remain a viable commodity in the workforce.

Also, be honest with prospective employers. Don’t be afraid to touch upon the fact that you have been out of work for some time. Some might see this as an attribute of your strength and fortitude to persevere though turmoil. Employers generally want to add people who are open to change and can adjust to challenges.

Good luck in your search and always remember to keep your head in the game.

Wil Smith is a Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. Wil has collected over 20 years of expertise in the areas of Corporate Training & Development, Recruitment and Operational Management; with the majority of that time working with a Fortune 500 Corporation. He has also worked in the Sports/ News industry as a Reporter and Broadcaster.


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