Job hunting basics for a tough market

China Gorman, an executive with the Society for Human Resource Management.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Tess Vigeland: Not only are college students taking on more loans to pay for their educations, they're also graduating into one of the worst job markets in recent history. But at least there's this: The government says 11,000 workers lost their jobs last month, instead of the hundreds of thousands we've been seeing. And the unemployment rate now stands at 10 percent. Some laid-off employees are lucky enough to be offered something called "outplacement" services. It's training and counseling meant to help you transition to the next stage of your working life.

China Gorman is with the Society for Human Resource Management, and I asked her what kind of advice people are hearing from outplacement counselors these days.

China Gorman: I think the basics have remained the same, but it takes a lot more focus and gumption to be in the job market today as a job seeker. Because, just as you said, every piece of information out there tells you, from every source that there are no jobs. Which of course would not be true. There are in fact lots of jobs, it's just harder to find them. And it takes, sometimes, guerilla tactic. It takes creativity and innovation to find the next right spot, whether it's a full-time position, like the one they left or it's a contract position, which is becoming more and more the norm these days. Or it's just time to re-tool your career, go back to school. The big difference now as opposed to a year ago, or two years ago, or three years ago, it's harder. It takes more work, it takes more focus.

Vigeland: I love the idea of guerilla tactics, in trying to find a new job. Can you give us a couple of examples of that?

Gorman: Well a year ago, I would've told you using social media to create your personal visibility and to grow your network would be a guerilla tactic.

Vigeland: Now that's just obvious, right?

Gorman: Today you must. But guerilla tactics would include not just responding to a job board posting, but developing a plan to meet the right people, to gain that professional and personal visibility.

Vigeland: So are you talking about, what, ambushing them at the local Starbucks?

Gorman: No, no! I don't mean that kind of guerilla tactics. I mean, really, what professional associations do they belong to and could they bump into them at a meeting. And you know what, it might be bumping into them at the Starbucks, if your data gathering is that good, and you know that they stop at that Starbucks on the way to work in the morning, you know, that might exactly work for you.

Vigeland: I understand that about 40 percent of workers who have access to outplacement services, don't use them. Why do you think that is?

Gorman: It's because for the most part, they're uneducated consumers. Outplacement doesn't make a lot of sense, I think, to the average employee in the population. The outcome, the specific outcome is that a job seeker knows how to go about placing themselves in the economy in a new way. Whether it's a full-time job or starting a business or going back to school or retiring.

Vigeland: If you've lost your job and you don't have outplacement offered to you, do you have any tips for folks, you know, things that they can take from the concept of outplacement and try to do it on their own?

Gorman: Sure. There are many community and faith-based organizations that are providing job search support and some of those programs are really top notch. In the public sector, the one-stop career centers. Many of them also do a very fine job of providing similar kinds of services for free. They just have to do some homework, they have to do a little bit of research and find out what their options are in the community.

Vigeland: China Gorman is an executive with the Society for Human Resource Management. Thank you so much for your help today.

Gorman: You're welcome, my pleasure.

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