Friday, June 19, 2009

The Labor Market from a Personal Perspective

In recent weeks a number of people close to me have lost their jobs. While the job market is in shambles, these folks are out there trying to find their next position. Some are also thinking about some creative alternatives. Here are a few examples:

I have previously mentioned that my wife's consulting contract is now over and she is looking for a new full time marketing position. She has had a few phone interviews over the past couple of weeks, but no concrete progress as of yet. We are prepared for a long and arduous search process, but she is doing all the right things to try to move things along. The leads she has been able to generate so far, have mostly come from within her network. She has also applied for a number of jobs she found online and - amazingly to me - has gotten a few call backs from what I normally consider a black hole method.

One of my oldest friends has recently lost his technology job. We were both in the same industry, so I am doing my best to help him find a new position. However, since we live in different parts of the world, my ability to assist is fairly limited. He has been searching for a job primarily through headhunters, so far with very few results. He is getting both discouraged and bored. To pass the time he has undertaken a personal project of transferring all the family videos to DVD. I offered to connect him with my father, who has some industry contacts that might be useful, but he politely declined. I am not exactly sure why. I think that given his job search strategy his job search will be a very long one.

Another one of my friends lost his job just two weeks ago. He is now pursuing a dual approach of looking for a new position, while also thinking about starting a business in his area of expertise. I think that this type of strategy is pretty common out there these days. I also think that one of the lasting effects of this nasty recession will be a plethora of new businesses and a spike in innovation.

My CEO recently fired our VP of Sales. He was nominally let go for performance reasons, but my thinking is that he was let go because he was not an integral member of the team. He never fit in with the rest of the management team, and never built the strong alliances that make one successful at work. I also think that my CEO let him go for political reasons, but I will not get into that in this post. I have been trying to help my former colleague find a new job, by connecting him with headhunters and potential employers.

Finally, a good friend of mine from business school was let go from Citigroup a few months ago, in one of their massive lay-off waves. He did not give up. Seeing the writing on the wall for his group months in advance, he started networking within the organization. Even though he was let go on paper, he never actually left the organization since he was immediately snapped-up by a different group in the company. The down side? I spoke to my friend last week and he tells me that the job he is doing is substantially below his skill level and well below the position he previously held with the organization. Nevertheless, he is not bitter. He is happy to be working gainfully throughout this downturn, while many others in his industry are out looking for a job.

The job market is really crappy these days, but as you can see from the examples I outlined above, different people are reacting in different ways. Some are getting frustrated and giving up, while others are re-doubling their efforts and looking to the future. I know which camp I am in.

Here are a few other posts about the downturn and about how people are handling it:

All Financial Matters wrote this brief post introducing Kiplinger's economic recovery index. Interesting. I have my own metrics which I consider - including LIBOR rates, TED spread, unemployment, treasury yields, international shipping rates and commodity prices.

Investoralist is looking at the crisis and its impact on China.

Spilling Buckets has a post about how the Buy American provisions in the federal stimulus package are bad for our economy. I completely agree. In fact, I have an interesting personal story to tell about these Buy American provisions. Look for a post in the coming days.

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