Job Search Lessons from the Great Recession
We’ve unexpectedly come upon a recession—or a potential recession. The longterm impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are not yet clear.
It can be difficult to compare our current situation to the economic crisis of 2008. The Great Recession came on gradually whereas COVID-19 arrived suddenly, resulting in immediate closures, layoffs, and a rapidly climbing unemployment rate. Governments around the world are subsidizing businesses and individual paychecks in hopes that a treatment or vaccine will result in a swift comeback. As for what happens next, we’ll leave that to the economists to predict.
What we know for sure is that, like during the Great Recession, many have lost their jobs and are now dealing with an uncertain future. Because there’s bound to be some longterm effect on the job market, we wanted to know how job seekers can best prepare themselves. We looked to the strategies that worked during the Great Recession.
Anyone who plans to search for a job in the next year, and even those currently employed, can apply the 7 lessons below.
During the Great Recession, even those who had been with their company for twenty plus years were fired. Job security was scarce. Companies began to contract with freelancers for their periodic needs instead of hiring full-time employees. Our gig economy was born.
For a lot of workers, this meant embracing the freelance life. Training themselves up instead of relying on their employers to do so. Marketing themselves online and nurturing relationships with clients.
If you’ve never freelanced before, it can be intimidating, but learning how to effectively find work as a free agent can help grow your income and skill development in a tough market. Be sure to keep a record of your accomplishments and ask happy clients to endorse you on LinkedIn or via a referral letter. You’ll find freelancing not only provides an income but benefits your resume and professional network, as well.
Create tailored resumes for each position.
Both college grads and seasoned professionals were taking stock of their transferable skills and applying for jobs outside their comfort zones during the Great Recession. Applying to different positions, or even similar positions in different industries, with the same resume, is not effective.
Here, on the Jobscan blog, we always encourage applicants to tailor their resumes to the job. Every time. Consider the impact of applicant tracking systems and a recruiter’s desire to spot keywords upon first glance. It can also be helpful to create unique master resumes for each type of job. That way, you won’t have to do too much work customizing each time you send off your resume.
Consider a career change.
Many people made career shifts during the Great Recession out of necessity. They had to go where the jobs existed. But others, like Jobscan CEO James Hu, saw being laid off as an opportunity to make a change. If the idea of changing your career path sounds appealing, now is a great time to go for it.
Know when to target a lower-level position.
Sometimes necessity requires workers to apply to lower-level positions. During the last recession, many people did so. But even though taking a more junior position can feel like a step backward, it can also open up new opportunities. Consider that you’ll be more equipped to excel in a lower-level position. And new growth opportunities and paths forward may reveal themselves to you.
Necessity’s not the only reason to look to lower-level positions. Here are some great reasons to take a step down on the ladder:
- You’re changing careers
- You want to reduce your responsibilities and work stress
- You want to work in a specific industry or for a specific company
No matter the motivation, try not to see a lower-level position as a bad thing. Careers are not always linear and taking a step back can result in rewarding and dynamic growth.
Continue networking even when you have a job.
As plenty of people saw in 2008, having a job today doesn’t mean you’ll have one tomorrow. Even though companies don’t want to lay off employees, some will no have a choice. Even if you’re an exemplary team member, you may still lose your job.
That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with folks and continue expanding your network, even when you’re employed. Engaging on LinkedIn can keep you and your talents in front of your valuable network. Personal connections count for a lot when searching for a job and when applying.
Care for your mental health.
Studies show that economic recessions are associated with a higher prevalence of mental health problems. While some lucky employees can count on employers to offer them mental health support resources, job seekers will have to look out for themselves. Keeping an eye on your mental health and seeking help when needed is an important element of your job search.
Since the Great Recession, we’ve come a long way in regards to the stigma surrounding mental health problems. We still have a long way to go. But hopefully, the work advocates have been doing in the last 12 years will help.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some self-evaluation tools to help assess your mental health.
Don’t give up.
You may have to settle for a job you don’t love as you navigate your way through these uncertain times. Many workers had to do the same during the Great Recession. But those who kept their career goals in mind, continued networking and developing their skills, were able to accomplish their goals. When the economy bounces back, those who are still putting in the effort to find a job they love will be rewarded.