Although our economy seems to be turning a corner — home sales have continued to improve for a full three months and, as I write this, the DJIA remains over 9,000 for the second day — unemployment remains very high and layoffs continue. As one friend recently told me, she was very tired from working very long hours, not because her company was busier, but because her company had eliminated more than half of the people who worked at her level in the company. Surviving with a job in this economy is a great thing, but employment in the wake of our new economic reality can also mean changing, and often diminishing, quality of life.
If you are looking for a job, or even if you just want to keep your job, there are a lot of sometimes unpleasant factors that now must be considered seriously. If you do not consider all of them and rationally assess how your opportunities might be improved by accepting them, you are very possibly limiting your long term success. After reading the following list, assess your current prospects, and then let us know whether acceptance of one or more of the following possibilities (or necessities) will make it easier for you to thrive, or at least get by, in the new economy.
You May Have to Relocate: During the Great Depression, a huge percentage of the American population was mobile, moving from town to town and state to state in search of work. Whatever you do for a living, there may be other parts of the country that offer more opportunity for you. If you have a family, especially children who live at home, you may have to consider uprooting them so that you can better provide for them. You might not want to do so, and it will probably be very stressful, but when faced with the choice of remaining unemployed or relocating, relocation is a much more viable option.
You May Have to Separate from Your Family: I have a friend who found work out of the country. He has been commuting to Mexico from the Eastern USA every Sunday night, returning on Friday night. He does this every week and has done so for several months. He could not make nearly as much money in his home state as he does consulting in Mexico so, despite the separation from his family and the need to pay double income taxes (Mexico and USA), he leaves his family every week to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the quality of life to which they have become accustomed.
You May Have a Longer Commute: Even if you do not have to relocate or separate from your family, you may find that you need to drive an hour or more to get to your new job. There are added costs associated with commuting but if a longer commute will get you a better job — or any job — you need to accept the longer commute.
You May Make Less Money: Some money is better than no money. If you can find a job that does not pay as much as you are used to making, it is a better to bring home a paycheck and benefits and to continue to look for a better job, than to turn up your nose at the thought of taking less.
You May Receive Fewer Benefits: You might be used to great benefits at your previous job. Your new job may not offer nearly as much. You may not get as much vacation as you want or as you previously received. You need to accept that you are starting over and benefits tend to benefit more senior employees so you will have to work your way back to seniority.
You May Have to Work Longer Hours: My friend described in the introduction to this article has learned that keeping her job means she also needs to absorb the work that her laid off colleagues used to perform. She is exhausted but she is also employed. She comforts herself that when the economy does improve, her company will hire more people and she will be rewarded with the benefits of greater experience and seniority.
You May Need to Travel More: As companies have fewer employees, the employees who are retained or hired may find that they need to travel for longer periods of time. You might be used to a sales territory that covered a radius of 100 miles from your home. You may have to accept that your new territory is far greater than that and that you have a lot more driving to do. If you travel by plane, you may find that you have a great many more overnight stays. Travel may get old after a while, but it is better to be employed on the road than unemployed on your couch.
You May Need to Spend More: Your new job may not pay as much as your old job but it may cost you more to keep it. If your commute is farther each day or if you need to pay more for work-appropriate clothing, your costs will increase. That is a simple truth and one that we need to accept.
You May Need to Work for Yourself: It may be that you have a skill that no employers seem to need but that you could market effectively to your customers. If you cannot find a job, perhaps you should be finding clients and setting up shop for yourself. If you can manage it, working for oneself is always preferable.
You May Have to Change Professions: Whatever you do for a living, you may need to be flexible and look for employment in other fields. Many skills are transferable from one job to another. Do not limit yourself to what you have done in the past. Expand your opportunities based on the skills you have developed and not on the jobs that you have held.
You May Not Have the Security that You Want: The days of the gold watch at the end of a career are long past. You may take a job today only to find that it is gone tomorrow. That is our reality. If you are fortunate, you will get a bit of severance and perhaps have the opportunity to enjoy COBRA insurance benefits. If you lose a job soon after you find one, it is time to reassess all over.
What do you think? What are the difficult truths that we need to confront in the current employment market?