Living in the swamp of a stagnant economy presents many challenges one might not otherwise face in a time of prosperity. Navigating a volatile employment market takes ingenuity, drive, and creative thinking. And not a little personal sacrifice.
Depending on where you reside, the unemployment rate currently hovers between 7-10%. It is an employer’s market, even in the Armed Forces. One career Army sergeant told me a few summers ago that the job security of being able to reenlist is a thing of the past. Those who wish to do so are carefully scrutinized. A record of poor performance, apathy, dust-ups with the law (e.g. bar fights, domestic mischief), etc., and your chances of being rehired are remote indeed. Even the US Army can now pick and choose.
As well, many highly educated veterans in banking, InfoTech, retail, and other markets, having been downsized, are now taking the simplest jobs, with high mortgages and school bills coming due without fail.
What to do?
I believe that job security is best stewarded in one’s own hands. Labor unions can only go so far. Those who keep their skills current, their work ethic stellar, their thinking creative, and their drive unimpaired stand the best chance of finding and maintaining gainful, even satisfying, employment in this competitive economy.
Here are some things you can do to hone your edge and increase your staying power:
- Traditional continuing education. This means everything from attaining or completing a degree program to adult enrichment courses at your local community college. You must weigh the costs associated and determine the value of the investment. It is a fantastic choice for many.
- Internet learning–at little or not cost. There is so much free training material on the Web that one is able to complete a good deal of traditional education for little or no cost. True, such training may not have the clout of an earned degree, but if it enables you to produce the results a company is looking for, you may get the job. MIT and Stanford, to name just two outstanding schools, have a huge assortment of free courses online—computer programming to engineering and everything in between. Avail yourself.
- A second job outside your primary vocation. It does not hurt at all to learn skills completely unrelated to your career. I am an IT professional, but also a carpenter, musician and baker. When the chips are down, I can look to these other fields for income and production. If it means taking a second job at low pay and bottom of ladder, do it. You will learn a new skill, valuable in itself. And it may well keep you afloat in the days ahead.
Remember, you may have to train on your own time and dime. Make the sacrifice. Your sense of self-accomplishment as well as potential marketability are worth the effort!