Career Tip of the Month

Six Simple Ways to Deal with an Uncertain Job Market

Students often tell me that they want a job that is stable, that they don't want to go through the downsizing situations that their parents had to go through during the recent recession. As a result, they are hesitant to choose a major in something they love, or they want me to tell them which major or career will grantee a future of lifelong stability and a good income.

Dealing with career uncertainty can be one of the toughest challenges we must confront at this stage in our lives. We all wish for supportive companies who provide us with pensions, that our social security system will always be there, and that we will be able to pay off our mortgages, put the kids through school, and retire comfortably and essentially debt-free. But those days may be gone. The reality of today's unpredictable economy means that we may very well be laid off sometime in the future, or have to retrain or change our careers or our jobs more than once in our lifetimes.

Certainly some occupations and professionals are more stable than others, such as working for the government or in an union environment. Looking at industry trends and future job forecasts are one way to stay ahead of the curve. But despite all of that, no one can really predict the future. You may find yourself being laid off by a company that closes and decides to go overseas, or goes bankrupt after a dip in the economy, restructures after being bought out by another company, or has to lay off some of its workers because it lost a couple of big contracts.

Your degree may be enough anymore to guarantee success in the work world. Your attitude, soft skills, ability to change and grow to meet new situations, and adopting a culture of continual lifelong learning may be what saves you.

As difficult as our circumstances may be, we actually have a choice about what kind of attitude we are going to adopt in response.

Rather than live in fear and denial of the unknown, there are steps we can take to pro-actively take charge of our future:

ACCEPT CAHNGE. Accept that in over the course of your lifetime, you will probably NOT have the same job, or even career, that you had when you graduated from college. Changing jobs is a way to gain more experience, increase your salary, and embrace new challenges. Assume that your job, and the way that you do your job, will change in the next 10 years. Accept that and be ready for it.

NETWORK. Develop your contacts. Maintain ties with your professional organizations or others in your field. A strong network will not only provide you with current market information but can be enormously helpful if you need to find another job.

STAY CURRENT. In today's job market, technical skills can change quickly. Keeping your skills current is essential if you want to offer value to your company. Make sure you're up to date on your industry's certifications and trends. Take outside classes and read trade publications, so that you know what's going on in your field. If you're a good worker with marketable skills, then you have a lot to offer another employer if you get laid off. This is why it's so important to keep your skills relevant and up-to-date.