It's no secret that some of the biggest industries in the U.S. have fallen on hard times. From the auto industry to the financial sector (and several others in between), fortunes have shifted for a lot of workers, who are left wondering if they'll still have a job in the next six months.
If the industry in which you work is experiencing a downturn, Lauren Milligan, founder of ResuMAYDAY, says, "Don't panic! Panic really only works well in action movies." Instead, consider these four options.
1. Narrow Your Focus.
If a lot of major employers in the same market let go of thousands of employees, the companies that are still hiring will be seeing a significant increase in applications. Milligan advises job seekers to avoid trying to be all things to all employers: "People want to tell employers, 'I can do this and this and this and this!' But that's too big of a message for your resume. You should narrow your view significantly."
She recommends focusing on one or two niche areas or skills that you're particularly effective at and that will boost an employer's bottom line.
2. Let Your Network Be Your Net.
When you're looking for work or fear for your job, you must reach out to your network. Milligan notes, "There are people who are very self-conscious about asking their networks for help in tough times, but most people don't mind lending a hand. If you're uncomfortable with reaching out, get over it! If you don't ask for help, you'll never receive it!"
She points out, "Between Facebook and Twitter, it's never been easier to stay in touch with people -- and staying top of mind is what will help you get your next job!" You can use blogging, microblogging, and even your status on Facebook to tactfully keep your search on people's radars. "Something simple, such as, 'Sandra is seeking an employer who values highly certified HR professionals,' can raise awareness."
3. Find out If You Need to Further Your Education.
You may assume that you'll need to go back to school to switch industries -- but that isn't always true. Milligan says, "Talk to people directly in that industry. Tell them, 'Here's what I know. Am I qualified for a position? Do I need more training?' I'm not convinced that everyone needs to earn another certification," states Milligan.
Job shadowing can be a great way to try on a career before committing to more schooling. She advises, "You don't want to sign up for a $10,000 vet tech course only to find out later that you faint at the sight of puppy blood!" If you have difficulty finding an employer who'll let you job shadow, she recommends seeking help through your local chamber of commerce.
4. Start Diversifying Now.
If you're worried about being pigeonholed in a particular industry -- today or tomorrow -- start volunteering in different industries. Hospitals continually seek volunteers as do almost all non-profit organizations. Milligan notes, "Your local chamber of commerce can help you make a solid introduction."
Having hands-on experience in a variety of industries will help build a stronger resume and make your transferable skills that much more obvious to a hiring manager. She adds, "If you're an accountant who's been downsized, look for the same job in a different industry. You'll be exposed to new software systems, new client-vendor relationships, and new contacts." The more diverse your experience, the less vulnerable you are to an industry downturn.