Ten Tips to Keeping Afloat in Any Economy

by | March 31, 2009

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A rising economic tide lifts all boats. But now that there's a market downturn, content and creative workers are seeing their ships sink. How do you get a job when there don't seem to be any jobs?

Sure, the economy might be in a downturn. Of course there are thousands of other folks competing for jobs. But there are plenty of ways to keep body and soul together while looking for your next great job. While these tips are aimed at print workers, they apply to many others who've been tossed to and fro in today's economic squalls.

1. Focus on maintaining your career objectives by freelancing

The best way to hold on to your dream, while you look for rent-paying work, is to freelance. Companies will always need freelancers - sometimes more so when the economy is slow. If you have editing experience, especially copy, line-editing or research skills, start approaching publications and web sites with a targeted resume expressing your interest. In many cases contacting the Copy Chief, Managing Editor or Research Editor is the best way to get started. Send a polite letter explaining your interest and related qualifications (please spell and grammar check your letter, or you don't have a prayer), and wait until they request your resume. In many cases you'll have to take some type of editing test to prove your skills.

Show your savvy by inquiring which style manual they use (the most common are Chicago, Words into Type, and AP). Also, ask if there is an internal style book; most large magazines have one. If you have Production (trafficking, layout, and art, scanning Quark and PhotoShop) experience, contact the Art Directors and Production Editors. WARNING: Please don't try to become a copy or production editor in 24 hours. Do brush up on skills you already have. These positions, if you pass the tests and the interview, won't be permanent. They usually last for the last one or two weeks of a magazine's closing. But freelance jobs help pay the rent, network, and maintain your career - avoiding gaps in your resume.

Are you a writer? Smaller magazines and international editions are always looking for new talent and people who can work for next to nothing. That's you. At least for a while, it will help to keep you building a portfolio of work while you do other things. Magazines with little or no budgets also allow for the most creative freedom.

The best way to approach small publications is with project proposals and a book of work. Don't just send them your portfolio unless your style follows their perspective. Have an idea ready to pitch.

~2. Temp

Sign up with as many temporary employment agencies as you can. Look for agencies that might specialize in your industry or area of expertise, and be sure they have a permanent employment division as well. Be open to all types of jobs, but be clear on your goals to pursue: writing, editing, and so on. This is the best way to pay the rent and maintain focus. Your agent will also be a great source of information for what's happening in the industry. If there are specific companies you'd like to work for, let your agency know.

3. Look for related careers or positions in unrelated industries

Although your dream job may not be available at the exact company you want, consider looking at related departments in unrelated industries. For example, if you were a film or book review writer, try approaching a film company or book publishing house for prospective openings, even if it's in their law department. If you are a fashion stylist or graphic artist, try a fashion company's advertising department or an advertising or public relations agency's art department. You may find your experience highly valued at these types of companies, because of your unique perspective.

4. Network

Look through your Rolodex and contact your friends, family, acquaintances, and catch up to see what might be opening up where they work or if they know of any companies that are hiring. Also, take time out to approach those people who have fulfilled your long-term career goal, and contact them with a polite letter of inquiry. Perhaps they can share some insight into how they started and give you some focus. Do informational interviews. Things change quickly and you need all the contacts you can make. Make sure to follow up and let people know of your progress or any significant changes in your resume. E-mail works well for this purpose. ~

5. Do your homework

There are numerous insider industry web sites that can help your career search. Check out About.com, Inside.Com, Mediabistro.com, Showbizz.com, Guru.com, PubTown.com and local newspaper listings. Also, read the paper every day to learn what companies might be expanding and hiring.

6. Reassess your capabilities. Add some more

Are you a computer whiz? If not, brush up and/or acquire new technology skills. If you are fluent in languages, brush up on those translating skills as well. You can use them to open more doors and get more work.

7. Offer your services to the public

Put out flyers on school bulletin boards, your apartment (your friends and family's too), the laundromat, bookstore, and anywhere that's free. Advertise and promote your skills. Editing, research, translations, English language teaching, and computer knowledge are always in demand.

8. Approach these "safe" industries for the following jobs:

Finance, Law, Accounting, Government and Medicine are a few of the safest industries with stable work forces. Try inquiring about file clerk, receptionist, research or proofing positions. They'll pay your rent while you freelance and raise your career profile. ~

9. Take a step down to take a step up

If you're eager to get into a certain company or work with a certain person, you might be willing to take a job that's a "step down." The problem is that many employers will think that you'll be too bored to do a good job. Consider toning down your resume - emphasizing your administrative and computer skills. This takes humility and a true willingness to learn and work hard. Only do this if you're absolutely sure that you're breaking into your dream company.

10. Last resort - take a hike

You've tried freelancing, pitching ideas, signed up with 20 temp agencies, inquired about informational interviews, posted your writing/translating/ computer services in 50 buildings and schools, AND inquired at all the unrelated companies you could never imagine - but still no work.It's time to think about moving to another city or town - or maybe commuting to another location - which may have better prospects and smaller companies in need of your experience.

Keep watching for S.M. Lourenco's expert advice community - coming soon!

Filed Under: Job Search

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