I lost my job 3 months ago. I am having a hard time with how hard it is to find a job. I have 2 kids in college and my “rainy day fund” has a huge leak. Most recently I made about $150,000 a year, and there aren’t that many positions at this level I see. There are jobs at lower levels though – jobs I did 2 levels ago, and about half the compensation. I don’t want to go backwards but I do need the money. Can I get one of these jobs? Should I go after them? What happens to my career in the long run? Will I be playing catch up forever?
A. Financial fear can be debilitating and make job seekers desperate. This does nothing to enhance chances of being hired, and hiring managers avoid people who don’t project confidence.
First, deal with reality. What is your actual financial situation? Bleak needs to be quantified. Have you eliminated as many expenses as possible? Is it possible to deal without many things especially if you can say “For now, I will not spend on XX” and start naming all the things you think you can part with, and all those things you don’t think you can part with either. Be aggressive in cutting. There are many free resources suggesting ways to cut back, including talking to banks and credit card companies. Colleges and universities may be willing to make small accommodations as well – as long as they occur prior to graduation, or the end of a semester. You need to give yourself options, and additional financial freedom will do that.
Have you exhausted severance? Many people want to bank severance, and have an unrealistic view that they should be able to save some if not most of it. It doesn’t sound like that is your case. How much will unemployment cover in your current situation? Do you have any savings accessible? How much debt do you have available? At what cost? Having the brutal financial facts available will help you understand your situation.
Looking for the right opportunity at the right level is the ideal, but this economic situation has left many industries far from ideal as potential employers. You may need to consider roles that are not stretch assignments, and not even lateral moves. You may need to look at roles more junior than you would like, especially if they are more plentiful.
Some employers see this climate as a time to hire great talent at “a discount”. These are most often good opportunities and not situations where companies are looking to take advantage of the current situation. By applying for roles at half your compensation or twice the experience range set for a particular role, hiring managers or search firms may assess you as overqualified, and not consider you for the position. This rejection is not about your abilities, but the employers concern that you will not be motivated in the role, and will leave as soon as a better opportunity at a higher salary comes along – which may occur before they realize their investment in hiring you.
You may find that your financial situation tells you to get back into a job immediately. People understand how that might be the case. Focus on those areas you have control over in the search. Keep a very broad range of opportunities in mind for your current search. Evaluate part time, consulting, and contract opportunities. Network with people representing all jobs, and keep the activity high – at least 5 face-to-face meetings a week. Create a robust LinkedIn profile and use it. Long term, as always, your career will be affected by the next role you take, and how successful you are in that role. Carefully tending your career, your job search efforts, and your compensation will make a difference over the long run.