One pink slip’s bad. Two to a family? That’s terrible

No one wants to get a dreaded pink slip from their employer. But what if you got one only to find out a few days or weeks later that your spouse was getting one, too?

I know what my reaction would be. I’d usher the kids out of the house for a few minutes and cuss up a blue streak.

Turns out, though, that in this terrible economy there are more dual-pink-slip households out there. The Wall Street Journal wrote this interesting story about this trend. According to the story, which cites statistics from the U.S. Burea of Labor Statistics, both the husband and wife were out of jobs in 124,000 families last year. That’s a big increase from the 87,000 families that faced the same challenge in 2006.

Hard as it may be to believe, there are some advantages to having both husband and wife out of work at the same time. The Wall Street Journal story says that partners can lean on each other support. They can also help each other through the networking process. Moving cross-country for a new job is easier if a spouse is still out of work. Of course, that’s like saying the advantage of being stuck in a tornado is that it’s an easy way to move your house from one county to the next.

If you do face this situation, I feel for you. The stress must be incredible. Hopefully, the families facing this challenge find jobs quickly.


When is it too late to join the online party?

The companies we work for have a lot to keep up with these days. The Internet has certainly made doing business easier. But it’s also made life even more hectic for company management types.

How do you use Twitter to promote your business? How do you develop a blog, and how do you get people to it? How do you use groups like LinkedIn to create more customers?

You have to admit, it can make your head ache just thinking of the possibilities.

Then there’s the big fear: What if it’s too late to take advantage of all that the Internet and social media have to offer?

The publishing company where I work is having a big meeting this week on social media. An outside expert is coming in to talk about blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the whole online whirl.

But I wonder: We’re in publishing. Shouldn’t we have already mastered this technology? Are we too late to the online party?

Maybe it’s never too late to boost your online footprint. But I wonder: With all the noise out there already, is it too late for newcomers to the online game?


People still getting fired. Just not as many

This is what passes for good news these days: According to the Wall Street Journal, while companies are still laying people off, they’re not laying off as many as they were earlier in the year.

The Journal points to this as a sign that the economy is finally stabilizing. Though, if you are one of the fewer people laid off in the last few weeks, I suppose you’d not agree.

So here’s the “good” news: Non-farm payrolls dropped 539,000 in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s better than the 699,000 drop in March.

Still, that’s a huge number of jobs lost in April. In fact, U.S. employers have shed 5.7 million jobs since the recession started in December of 2007.

The unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent in April, the highest that number has stood since September of 1983.

That last number is the key. Until uemployment goes down, the economy won’t begin a true recovery.


Firings not always easy for small companies

There’s a tendency that workers have to think of their employers as rather heartless. In bad economic times, especially, it’s easy to think of your employers as enemies. Layoffs and firings tend to do that.

But an interesting story in the New York Times highlights the human side of companies. Turns out, firing people isn’t all that much fun for anyone.

The story highlights the wrenching decision that officials at Grafton, Wis.-based Ram Tool had to make recently: It took the company three days of discussions to decide to lay off four workers.

After the deed, the company’s vice president ran to her office, shut the door and burst into tears.

It’s good to see this side of companies. Sometimes we all get jaded. We think companies enjoy shedding employees. Most times, it’s a process no one enjoys.


Don’t rely on TV news for career help

Everyone wants to help job hunters find their ideal new position. At least it seems that way.

Problem is, most of the help being sent towad job seekers isn’t too useful. At least not when it’s coming from the TV media.

Newspapers are different. They can devote a lot of space to providing career information to their readers. But TV news? It’s short-attention span time with them, even on their Web sites.

Here’s an example: The Web site of WRBL News 3 has this short story on what you should do if you need to switch careers. The story includes a link to a pretty good site, Career Voyages, a site that I highlighted recently on this blog. That’s fine. What isn’t fine, though, are the first few statements by the author, Jennifer Serda. She recommends that job hunters first do a self-assessment of themselves, and presents links to two online sites that will perform this assessment for free.

I’m sorry, but this whole self-assessment thing sounds like corporate, human-resources speak to me. And I don’t think there’s a Web site out there that can really tell you what you want in a career. Is knowing that you’re a person who thrives on organization really going to help you determine your next career? Does having an online self-assessment test tell you that you’re creative going to do anything to help you find your next job?

No. You know who you are already, you don’t need to take a self-assessment test to find out. You also know the career you want. It’s up to you to go get it and not waste time assessing your self.


Searching for a career in a field that’s actually growing? There’s a Web site for you

By reading the newspapers, you might think that there isn’t a single career out there that’s actually experiencing growth right now.

After all, the unemployment rate across the nation is soaring. Companies are laying off workers every day. Others are cutting hours and benefits.

But, surprisingly enough, there are some careers that are actually booming — at least a little bit — right now.

If you’re searching for one of these careers, visit Career Voyages, a government Web site devoted to highlighting in-demand jobs.

Yes, I said “in demand.” There really are jobs out there.

The site’s front page, for instance, has stories about the growing IT field in North Dakota. There are also stories about the growing demand for medical and biotech jobs.

The site also allows visitors to click on a wide range of industries to see just how well they are performing. It also lists in-demand occupations within these industries.

Technology is the friend of today’s job seeker. Check out Career Voyages. Who knows what you might learn.


The need to adapt

Work has become a drag for me. I’ve always loved the fact that I support my family, and pay a home mortgage, simply by writing.

There aren’t many people out there who love their work.

Problem is, I’m not loving the freelance-writing life quite as much these days. It’s the economy, of course, and the fact that it’s killing off my print-magazine clients at a dizzying pace.

These are terrible times for publishers. This means, of course, that it’s a terrible time to be a freelance writer, too.

Last week was a particularly tough one. My strongest print-magazine client, my highest-paying one, too, informed me that they’d be assigning me significantly fewer stories throughout the rest of the year. This was tough to take, and it was partially my fault: I committed one of the top sins of freelance writing. I became too dependant on one particular publisher.

I will survive, though. Yes, this is the toughest writing market I’ve ever faced. But I will get through it.

I’m trying to adapt. I’m writing more online stuff than I’ve ever done before. Most of it doesn’t pay well, but, I have to admit, it sure is easier to write for a blog or a content mill than it is to spend weeks researching, conducting interviews and planning site visits for a story in the Washington Post or Phoenix Magazine.

Adapting is key to today’s working world, and not just for freelance writers. We all have to adapt.

Yes, it’s awful. Yes, it’s not any fun. But … it is necessary.


Are the resume’ Web sites worth it?

It’s a terrible economy out there, and job hunters are plentiful. Everyone is searching for ways to stand out from the rest of the unemployed.

So how about online resume’ sites, those Web sites promising to create an electronic version of your resume’, tricked out with video, pictures and whatever else you’d like to throw on them? Maybe you’d be better off sticking to pen and paper.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the online resume’ sites don’t quite measure up. The Journal tested four popular sites, Doodlebit, WebResumePlace, InteractiveResumeServices and VisualCV. Fees for the sites range from nothing (I like that one!) to $69 a month.

Unfortunately, the Journal found that all of the sites save for VisualCV produced resume’s that were tacky. A career coach that assisted the Journal in testing the sites, said that the resume’s most of them created would turn off most hiring personnel.

It seems that, for once, traditional pen and paper media trump the latest in technology. If you’re looking for a job, send out that paper resume’. Leave the high-tech stuff to those folks who don’t want to impress their future bosses.


Laid-off workers turning to community colleges

You never know how the recession is going to impact a person or institution. For instance, community colleges. They’ve long offered programs designed to teach adults very specific job skills.

Turns out, in a recession like this one, that’s a good thing to teach.

A story in the Dallas Morning News says that enrollment among students older than 41 at local community colleges has increased significantly. The story highlights a former worker in the mortgage industry — an industry gutted by the recession and housing slump — who has returned to a Dallas-area community college to learn a new career. She wants to become a chef.

This woman is far from alone. Adults are returning to community colleges across the country to tackle new careers. For some, it’s a bit of an opportunity. A friend of mine has always wanted to work as a nurse. Now that he’s been laid off from his accounting job, he’s decided to go back to a local community college to get an associate’s degree in nursing. It’s a risk, and a big career change, but the recession, he says, has taught him how foolish it is to hold onto a job that you don’t really like for its stability.

See, there is no stability in the working world any longer.

If you have lost your job, and you are still financially secure enough to swing it, consider community college. Maybe it is time to go after that dream career.


The amazing shrinking economy

It’s official: We are suffering through the worst recession in at least 50 years.

Feel better? I don’t.

According to this story by Bloomberg, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product fell at a 6.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter. That was even worse than originally forecast, and it follows a 6.3 drop in the final three months of 2008.

To make things even gloomier, the Bloomberg story quotes Richard Berner, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley in New York City, as saying that the country will rebound from the recession very slowly, and that the recovery will be a weak one. Way to cheer everyone up, Berner!

Of course, most people don’t need the Commerce Department to tell them that this is one bad recession. They only have to look at their dwindling paychecks, their soon-to-end unemployment benefits or the bills they’re struggling to pay.