There is no escaping the facts of the matter at hand: the recession is not just a local or domestic concern, it is a worldwide reality. When such a downward trend makes its presence felt, there are few things that escape its wrath. One of the most devastating elements is the recession's effect on the news media. Turning on the news has become a rather debilitating exercise for those who are looking for some positive light to be shed on the matter.
Because of the effects of the daily news, there are few reasons to hope for a change in one's personal situation. How can any worthwhile job be available when all that is reported are the layoffs, the hiring freezes and the increasing numbers of people without work? As always, there are two sides to the story, and neither would indicate a "best of times" or "worst of times" scenario. In fact, for the average employee with a desirable set of career skills, the current job market is not all that different from the one in play before the recession. The difference, now more than ever, is in the presentation. With the right career advice, job seekers can turn this negative into a positive. Career management can get job seekers to master three essential points of the process: Assessment, Differentiation and Enhancement.
An Honest Assessment
The human race is notorious for its powers to deny reality. In some cases, it can be focusing on the sunny side of things, but on the other end of it, the tendency to dwell on the negative is not uncommon. The idea during the job search process is to get to the most honest assessment of one's self. Coming to terms with the negative aspects of one's self should not be considered unwelcome. After all, it is recommended for any job seeker to catch that before a hiring manager does. In the same way one should learn from mistakes, there are many valuable lessons to be learned from one's least valuable qualities. Tempering the negative in each person is one of the goals of quality career advice.
At the same time, there is little good to come from spending too much time focusing on the negative aspects of one's self. There is enough negativity in the world during tough economic times. The real goal of career advice is to get to the positive in one's profile. In some cases, the job applicant might not be able to see it on his or her own. Even the people around the job seeker can have a hard time locating the big picture. As humans are so often a product of their surroundings, what that means for the job seeker is a form of recycled negativity: from the news to society to one's peers and back again. This method is no way to beat the recession. A career coach with the right technique will be able to keep a job seeker on the right page, quietly acknowledging limitations while staying on course. Once that level of honesty is achieved, no matter how brutal it might seem, the ability to differentiate one's self will fall into place.
The ability to separate one's self from the pack is what separates the truly successful individual from the average person. It might seem like an intimidating process, even an unpleasant one, seeing what advantages one has with an employment profile or personality type. One should never think of it as considering him or herself better than others. Hiring managers and employers may think that way, but it is an unhealthy habit for people to buy into the concept. Instead, think how one can perform a job better. The bottom line is the employer-employee relationship. One requires a service; the other delivers it, if qualified.
Good career advice teaches job seekers how to look at a job and see how it can be fulfilled best. Later on, the process of showing what gives a job seeker the edge will be discussed, but in the meantime focusing on the job itself is a useful exercise. Employers always respond to the applicant who sees the job as the ultimate goal; i.e., tells a hiring manager how that job can be mastered for the benefit of the company at large. Employers are impressed by applicants who see themselves as a potential cog in the company's wheel - but an essential cog. Once that process has been completed, an applicant needs to focus on self-enhancement.
Marketing the Best Product: the Enhancement Process
It may sound strange, but in the end each job seeker is selling a product, whether it becomes impersonal to consider one's self in those terms or not. In a recession, there are fewer buyers in the marketplace, so only the sellers who know how to market themselves effectively stand to win. This part of career coaching is probably the most critical.
Job seekers tend to think of themselves in a specific way, as rightly they should - it's taken a lifetime. However, the ability to see beyond one's self is one of the most difficult things for humans to grasp. A great career coach will take one's best and make it seem even better. In many cases, enhancement does not mean the "Hollywood" treatment. To the contrary, it could mean making an applicant seem more subdued and quieter, depending on the type of firm in question.
The bottom line is career coaches who excel at their jobs know the terrain and will have the tips for a job seeker who wants to move forward, regardless of what is being said on the television or printed in the newspapers. The recession means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but it should never mean a reason to give up hope and accept the fate that appears to have become common. There is never any good reason to accept what can possibly be changed for the better.
Peter Appleby is the director of Appleby Associates, a group of career consultants who help those at a career crossroad.