Tough Times, Tough Choices

In a hardeconomic climate,what are youwilling to doto work?

and 3.5% of sales representatives. African American professionals, however, comprise 11.4% of the country’s personnel and labor relations managers.

Career advisors are offering hard advice for these difficult times: Take a pay cut, change industries, relocate, even consider temporary or blue-collar work. “This is one of the toughest markets I’ve ever seen,” says Stephen L. Thompson, senior vice president of Rudolph Dew & Associates L.L.C., a Los Angeles-based career management firm. “If you narrow the choices you’re willing to make, you narrow the opportunities that are available.”

But there are a few industrial and regional bright spots here and there. BLS expects a 15% increase in the number of jobs in the U.S. between now and 2010. And experts such as Sara Paynter, a job market consultant for St. Louis-based outplacement firm Lee Harris Hecht, have seen some growth in the healthcare, insurance, and food and beverage industries.

The struggle to find employment for many out-of-work professionals in depressed industries like technology, and in weakened regions like the Northeast corridor, will force job applicants to be more aggressive — restructuring résumés, networking, joining support groups, and consulting career coaches. Many will take a financial hit as they will be forced to tap emergency funds, draw on retirement savings, borrow from family and friends, or tap the equity in their homes. (See sidebar.)

Experts say professionals need to check their egos and change their job-hunting techniques. For example, broaden your network beyond industry groups or job functions. “Your colleagues are now your competitors. And don’t forget it,” cautions Laurence Stybel, president of Boston-based outplacement firm Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire. In other words, don’t employ old strategies in this tough, new world.

FROM WHITE-COLLAR TO BLUE-COLLAR
During hard times, professionals may have to consider work of any kind, putting finances first. “That sometimes means that you [have to] make a decision you would not otherwise make,” says Lisa Taylor Huff, a career coach in Mendham, New Jersey. She adds that even a low-wage job can lift some financial pressure, alleviating anxiety and possibly making an applicant more attractive to employers.

Lyndon S. James was an upwardly mobile Wall Street business consultant earning a six-figure salary — plus stock options and an annual 20% bonus. He ended up having to work in the laundry room of a residence hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a job that paid about one quarter of his former salary. “Sometimes you have to swallow your pride,” says James. “If you’re as good as you think you are, you will rebound.” James was laid off from New York City-based financial services firm Capco L.L.C. in January 2002 and fortunately had a freelance consulting assignment that lasted from February to May. Then he took a series of blue-collar jobs. He delivered newspapers and worked at a steel firm, shaping girders for bridges for a little while. Still intent on working in his industry, James continued to interview at dozens of firms, posted his résumé on Websites like Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com, and he saw a career coach.

James landed the

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