Working Worried and White Collar Hollers

Work-related trends in the recession.

Posted Sep 11, 2009

I've been out of the blogosphere since July partly due to a vacation, but mostly due to work commitments, and it's time to catch up. Seven weeks doesn't seem like a lot of time, but when I ponder what's come up since I last posted, it seems much longer. Here are some observations from the past seven weeks, in no particular order...

The Working Worried. While much media focus is on unemployed individuals, an article by Caitlin Williams in Career Convergence magazine published by the National Career Development Association discusses a growing discomfort of the "survivors" in the workplace-- those who still have jobs but wonder for how long.

You're Majoring in What? As students return to college or start their first year, that "Major Question" begins to haunt them: "What are you going to major in? And what are you going to do with that?" See my posting for more info on this decision-- which is as unimportant or important as you choose to make it.

Unemployment Continues to Rise. Despite small bursts of optimism in the media, the job market has not improved, and in fact the unemployment rate continues to rise. It will take the creation of millions of new jobs before the unemployment figures improve significantly. A recent AP article in the Austin American Statesman article titled "Meltdown 101" pretty much describes it all.

Insecure Secure Fields. Finding secure employment fields is getting harder. When the recession first started, higher education was considered a "safe bet" for employment. Colleges and universities were viewed as relatively stable: no matter how bad the economy was, students would still go to school. But, as the recession dragged on, shrinking college endowments, student loan money, family incomes and savings, and state allocations all converged to squeeze tight budgets tighter. The California system was one of the first to falter, followed by small colleges and state funded institutions. And so educators at all levels are hearing a lot about hiring freezes and layoffs along with the "do more with less" mantra.

When Panic Attacks. I read an excellent book by Dr. David Burns, one of my favorite writers in the field of psychology, "When Panic Attacks." Dr. Burns offers a variety of creative techniques for conquering anxiety, and I plan to blog about applying those techniques to the job search process in future posts.

White Collar Holler. A musician friend died during this period. Nigel Russell was a very talented member of the South Austin Bakery Jam (our motto: "We're all good at something else"). Born in Scotland, raised in Canada, and transplanted to Austin, Nigel performed with a variety of musicians and groups. In his high school days he played music with his friend, the brilliant Canadian folksinger Stan Rogers, and later composed "The White Collar Holler" (hear Stan Rogers perform it on this YouTube of a radio broadcast),a clever modern-day adaptation of a work song for those who toil at computers all day.  When I teach my "Liberal Arts in Management" class, I always play that song for my students. Like many artists, Nigel didn't support himself exclusively by performing; he had side businesses in boat and house building, which brings up another trend that seems to be growing, both in recent college graduates and mid-career workers:

Career Cobbling. I'm hearing more and more stories from recent college graduates working two and sometimes three part-time jobs, as well as freelancing or using their talents to start a small business on the side. Most career centers are structured around a more traditional single-employer model-- I predict more of us will be offering workshops on career cobbling this year as our students face what may be the most difficult job market since World War II.

There's a lot to blog about in the coming months.  We're all well aware of the bad news-- so how do we continue to move forward in our careers despite the recession? I'll be back with more Career Transitions postings: your questions and suggestions for topics are always welcome.

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