Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Win a New Job

When the country is in a severe recession, it's a good time to have a job. The trick sometimes is holding onto it.

Johnson Publishing, the Chicago-based home to such long-standing magazines Jet and Ebony, recently announced that it was reorganizing its operations and that current staffers would be allowed to reapply for their jobs. The company says it is part of a process of repositioning the company "to service the changing media environment."

Johnson's changes are not unique, of course, either in the media industry or in business of any industry. Every week and almost every day brings news of more layoffs, store closings, and cutbacks in hours worked. The country has gone through downturns before, and layoffs are not unusual. But in past recessions, the downturn was often in specific sectors, hitting hardest some whil leaving others only lightly or not at all damaged. One could leave a job and expect to find employment elsewhere. This time, the carnage is widespread.

Consider one young scientist we know who moved to the Bay Area in 2001 after getting his degree from an Ivy League school. After two months on the job, and while still paying off moving expenses, he was laid off when his company was purchased and went through a round of "servicing the changing [science] environment," so to speak. But within two weeks, he had landed a new job -- and a better-paying one, at that.

But just this week, his company laid off about a quarter of its work force, and those employees will have to compete with every other laid-off scientist if they search within the science markets for a new job, and if they start looking in other industries, they'll have to do jobforce-battle with out-of-work real estate agents, store clerks, sales people, and, perhaps, postal carriers. There's no schadenfreude when everyone's in the same boat.

The Bay Area is still filled with enough people who remember the layoffs following the collapse of the dot-com bubble. And once again, people are looking for information and leads on new careers, new jobs, new industries. The Commonwealth Club's Inforum division held a green-jobs fair on January 26, drawing an overflow crowd (literally out the door, down the stairs and onto the sidewalk). See ABC7's report, video and photos here.

The massive turnout demonstrated both the thirst for help with job-seeking and the eagerness to find the next big thing that wil power a career and an economy. In this case, it's the new technologies driving the green business future that many people, including President Barack Obama, have been touting. People who missed that event will be heartened to know that Inforum will produce another jobs fair in the near future, and will remain focused on how the economy is impacting people's lives and what they can do about it.

Activist and self-appointed "green jobs guru" Van Jones made a repeat appearance at The Commonwealth Club on February 2. See the video embedded above for his previous appearance at The Club, when he and California legislator Darrell Steinberg discussed their vision for helping the economy by helping industry to help the environment.

So there is help out there. But people in the Bay Area may be finding that the best results will come via the region's famous networking opportunities, such as Inforum job fairs and meeting the people who are building the new economy.


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