Tough Times, Tough Choices - Page 4 of 5

Tough Times, Tough Choices

been forced to find another job to make ends meet. While continuing to build her practice, she now works as a contracts manager for a French offshore engineering and construction company.

If you’re even thinking about becoming an entrepreneur after a layoff, realize that you’re not going to have the safety net of a regular paycheck. And developing a strong business plan before you take that plunge is a must. Shankle says that she got off to a rocky start because she began her enterprise without one.

Professionals who have specific skills sets may have to travel across the country to find work or change industries altogether.

Take Grevious. He still likes the benefits of being an independent contractor — the autonomy, higher salary, ability to experience a wide variety of companies — but the sluggish economy has bared the pitfalls of this type of work. In addition to traveling thousands of miles to get consulting gigs, the IT professional must contend with, among other things, one-sided agreements that an employer can terminate at will. Grevious’ last contract was slated for 30 days but it only lasted a week.

Thus far the Greviouses have exhausted about $15,000 in retirement funds, but an $85,000 home equity credit line they acquired a few months ago is helping them stave off financial disaster. “We are exhausting any and all resources,” Grevious says. “Bank accounts have been drained, credit cards have been maxed.” The couple also decided to homeschool their children last year.

Grevious recently attended a program on entrepreneurship offered by the Massachusetts Department of Employment Training. The group is associated with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE; www and offers career placement services. “I haven’t actually landed a job, but [they’re helping me] keep on the right track,” says Grevious. While still committed to IT, he is considering work in other fields and is open to relocating. Professionals can also go to their local Department of Labor one-stop center, which offers displaced workers free training, counseling, referrals, and classes on résumé construction and salary negotiation. These centers are in every state.

Some experts suggest hiring a career coach. While career coaches don’t offer job referrals, they can help you identify jobs based on your interests, build on your strengths, and sharpen your skills. Daniel Martinage, executive director of the International Coach Federation, a professional society, likens career coaches to personal fitness trainers. “Coaches help motivate you to come up with the direct steps to achieve what you’re seeking,” he says. The group’s Website, www.coachfedera, also lists members who offer pro bono coaching.

Leon Thomas, a 35-year-old engineer, moved his family more than 1,000 miles to stay employed. When he first heard that his company, BOC Process Plants, had been sold to another company and that his division was moving from Murray Hill, New Jersey, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, he thought “I would go anyplace else” but there. He did everything he could to find another job and avoid moving. His wife,