How To Effectively Compete In A Tough Job Market

Getting In Gear For Career Success

“I’m open. I’m open,” waiting for someone in upper management to toss them the ball. Their resistance to participate in the culture of the corporation–either intentionally or unknowingly–prevents them from ever getting noticed. They are never considered part of the team. “You could either try to create a whole new path of promotional progress and change everybody’s mind in the organization” says Watson, “or you can learn how to play golf.”

Don’t hide out in school. Business school is only a good option if you are clear on your career objectives and have determined how a second degree will enhance your goals, says Riley. “Some people are rushing back to business school. Some of those people have been laid off [and see it as] a good place to hide out for two years. The M.B.A. environment is not the place to try and find yourself,” she explains. At a school like Fuqua, where students are “aggressive and hungry,” it could be “an extremely intimidating environment.”

You should know, however, that many business schools have also made curriculum adjustments that speak to the tough job market. Some competitive schools like Fuqua now provide programs that allow candidates to keep their jobs while pursuing a second degree.

Stay busy. Being unemployed, particularly for long periods of time, can erode self-esteem and throw you into an altered state of reality, say the experts. Mason says unemployment may trigger haunting questions like “Am I as good as I really think I am? Does my family see me as a failure? Am I adding va
lue here?”

Long bouts of unemployment can also make it difficult to accept ownership. “It’s very hard for people who have been out for a long time [to be honest] about why they’re not employed, about the choices they may have made,” says Watson.

All of the experts agree that it is important to stay busy. “Go to work,” says Watson, “whether it’s for pay or not.”

Read on for more of the experts’ strategic advice on battling the corporate storm and setting your sail for success.

OFF TO A GOOD START
The brutal economic climate has stalled the careers of many young professionals, but Lakila Richardson’s future already looks promising. Even before beginning her senior year at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, the finance major won a coveted offer to join General Electric Co.’s prestigious, two-year financial management program after her graduation in May 2003. Richardson, 22, notes that the highly competitive program has launched the careers of many GE chief financial officers and blue chip chief executives and CFOs.

Richardson credits her entree into corporate finance to two successful internships in the finance department of GE Plastics and to her commitment to developing mentors and seeking opportunities to network.

Other young professionals can easily follow her example by thinking ahead. According to Watson, that means developing a career plan.

Professionals “should pay a much higher level of investment of time and attention learning about managing [their] careers,” he says. A good career plan, he explains,

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