Finding a Job in a Recession: What to Do if Youve Been Laid Off

by Andrew · 16 comments

The unemployment rate is at 7.2% and 11.1 million people are unemployed. The job market is flooded with insanely talented people. And you just got laid off.  $@%^#!

Even in a strong economy job-hunting is a stressful ordeal, but the prospect of finding a job in a recession can be downright depressing.

This is perhaps the best time to expand your subject matter expertise by earning certification or an advanced degree from online colleges and universities, but if that’s not an option, here are some things you can do to drastically increase your chances of finding a job in a recession:

First, and this is huge, I would argue that every business decision is based on at least one of only 3 factors: increasing revenue, cutting costs, and increasing efficiency. When a hiring manager looks at your resume, it doesn’t matter how great of a school you went to or whether you spent 6 months or 8 years at your previous job, those things are all just ingredients that combine to form an impression in the mind of hiring manager of whether or not you’re capable of helping the company generate more revenue, cut costs, or be more efficient.

As you sit down to update your resume and write cover letters, and at that next interview, keep in mind that you absolutely need to convey at least one of the following:

  1. I can help your company generate more revenue
  2. I can help your company cut costs
  3. I can help your company be more efficient

Sell yourself! And don’t just SAY you’re qualified to do one of those things, provide clear examples of how you’ve done it in the past.

1. Go Back to School

If you can even remotely afford to pull it this off then forget job-hunting and go back to school. Even in the best of times, expanding your subject matter expertise by earning certification or an advanced degree is important for upward mobility, but it’s true now more than ever. If a degree or certification could help you in the long run, start working on it right now.

  • Make it work. Work full-time or part-time at the best paying job you can find, and spend the rest of your time focusing on the long-term by advancing your skill set.
  • If you can afford to take a break from employment to work on a degree, do it. By the time the recession rebounds you’ll be primed to hit the ground running.
  • If you still need to work full time, then try going to school at night. Or, if you can subsist on a part-time job, try working nights and going to school full time.
  • There’s more financial assistance out there than you think.  Start by filling out a Federal Application for Financial Student Aid, and talk to a counselor at your education institution of choice

If you absolutely can’t swing going back to school right now, then turn the table on cost-conscious employers by pitching yourself as a lower-cost, increasing-value team player. In this economy, every company is looking someone who can add value, cut costs, and manage the tough times.

2. Start Your Own Business

Again, this isn’t the right approach for everyone and not everyone is ready to pull the trigger, but if you’ve been thinking of starting your own thing then now is the perfect time do it, particularly if you can find a way to profit off the recession.

Read these posts for a perspective on why now is actually the IDEAL time to start your own business:

1. Start Now: 6 Reasons Why This Economy is Good for Startups
2. More Reasons Why Now is the Time for Hatching Something New
3. 2009 Will be an Economic Engine for Change

3. Consider changing your profession or industry.

Just because you have years of school behind you doesn’t mean you have to stay in the career path you started with.  There’s a huge world of opportunity out there, but it might be on a path you never considered.  Think about a change.

  • Focus on growth industries and specializations. Picking an industry that is still growing or is predicted to grow during these difficult economic times increases your chances of landing a new job and decreases your chances of getting laid off again. Some of the top growth industries are:
    1. Computers/IT
    2. Energy
    3. Health care
    4. Federal government
    5. Legal (attorneys)
    6. Aerospace manufacturing
    7. International business
    8. Security (physical and systems)
    9. Education
    10. Environmental
    11. Science/R&D (Though not at Pfizer right now!)
  • Select 2 or 3 industries along with the region(s) you’re willing to live, and then target the top 10 companies in each industry and region and go to town.  Spend more time focusing on your target companies than the spray-and-pray method of replying to every job post on Craigslist or CareerBuilder

4. Network Your Ass Off

Get off your butt and make friends, now. HR experts say that 80% of jobs are filled through networking / referrals.  If you’re battling against 11.1 million other Americans to find a job, and 80% of jobs are landed through networking, then do you see how important this is?

Have you ignored invites to join LinkedIn, BrightFuse, or other professional networking sites? Now is the time to join and milk your connections. Here are some of the major players:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. BrightFuse
  3. Spoke
  4. Plaxo
  5. Ecademy
  6. Xing
  7. YorZ
  8. Ryze
  9. Care2
  10. Gather
  11. Naymz
  12. Networking for Professionals

For more info on social media networking tips, John Boyd at Sales Management 2.0 posted a great article last week on using social media to find a job in a down economy.

5. Take a Step Job

A step job is the job you take while you are still working towards your next career job.  It might pay less, or have a smaller title, or even be embarrassing (delivering pizza to your neighbors?), but it puts food on the table and gets you out of the house. (JibberJobber)

6. Try Part-Time or Freelance Work

“Rather than one ‘job,’ think in terms of multiple positions. Breaking in [to a new job] may be easier if you aim for part-time work within a company,” advises Katy Piotrowski, career counselor and author of “The Career Coward’s Guides.” “Line up multiple part-time positions and you’ll benefit from more job security; if one position evaporates, you have the others to fall back on.”Moreover, it will pad your résumé and your wallet.

Rachel Weingarten, author of “Career and Corporate Cool,” recommends job sharing or taking over for someone on maternity leave or during the holiday crunch. “A lot of people don’t want to commit full-time skills to a part-time or temporary gig. In this economy though, it can allow you to not only try on a job for size, but to also improve your skills, impress a potential long-term employer and network like crazy with people in your chosen industry,” she says. “Instead of nervously waiting for the right full-time career, you can potentially make something better happen in the short term.”

7. Get Used to rejection

You’re going to be rejected. A lot. So get over it now. In this market it’s not about you, it’s about the economy and the 11.1 million other people hunting for a job. Expect the worst: you might not find a job until you’ve submitted your resume for the 1,000th time or had your 17th interview, so don’t give up prematurely.

8. Be Willing to Settle

All bad markets are temporary. Having a job in tough times is very much a bird in hand situation. Take what you can get, even if it’s a step down. It’s better to have a so-so job now so the paychecks keep coming in and you’re still gaining experience. This is much preferable to holding out for your dream job for months or even years. The opportunities will be there again soon, and when they are, you can land the dream job then.

9. Use Every Job Hunting Site You Can Find

Maybe you’ve had better luck, but I have absolutely never found a solid job lead on Careerbuilder or  Those are by far the two largest job sites out there, but increase your chances by hitting niche job boards and smaller sites. There are many more job sites than I’ve listed here, but these are some of the best:

  1. Craigslist
  2. Dice
  3. MediaBistro
  4. FutureStep
  5. Indeed
  6. TechCrunch’s Crunchboard
  7. Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal
  8. CollegeRecruiter
  9. SoloGig
  10. AllFreelance
  11. Freelance Switch
  12. Go Freelance
  13. Yahoo! Hot Jobs
  14. Guru

Do you have any tips for how to find a job in a recession? Leave a comment and let us know.

Photo credit: h_haenen

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil July 4, 2010 at 5:06 am

Go apply to become a correctional officer in Texas, u get good insurance, benefits, lots of time off, and job stability. Its one of the few places i know of thats still hiring.


Josh November 26, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Thanks for this post! I really believe that the best thing someone can do after losing a job is to start an online business. It’s cheap and fast to get started.


Rebecca July 1, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Thanks for a great post (and well timed). Some fantastic resources for job seekers, but I thought I’d also mention oDesk as a site that offers job opportunities for freelancers.

Great info, though! :-)


Tim April 6, 2009 at 8:33 am

There are some tips and points in your article that could really make the difference for some looking for a job.

Here’s a possibility many overlook, and it could fit in both the first and second points about going back to school or starting a business.

Since so many are talking about being more creative during this economic slump, why not think outside the box of looking to work for another in the first place? I know, I know, but stay with me for a moment.

It’s amazing that there are plenty of skill sets that are for whatever reason not “conventional” enough to be taught in schools, but the mastery of which would lead to more autonomy.

Most of us are trained to be employees- nothing wrong with that, but thinking that way can be a kind of tunnel vision that keeps many from learning skills that would allow them to carve out their own path to income and contribution.

One of them is as close as the computer in front of you. No really, for the first time in history, we are 3 feet in front of the world, yet few learn how to use it in a way to render 1) value to others and 2)income for themselves.

There ARE ways to learn this stuff, if you can avoid all the junk and find good and reputable sources.


Constantine von Hoffman February 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

Thanks for the mention! Anyone wanting to know more about Spoke and using it for this please check out our new blog at


Marcus Ronaldi February 9, 2009 at 11:51 am

I think this has some really good information.
Of all the ones listed, #4 network your ass off is the best.
In addition to the listed networking sites, go to networking events.
If your in technology get involved with user groups.

Marcus Ronaldi


Bennett January 30, 2009 at 7:21 am

I have done all the recommendations with some success. This article does not include volunteering as a way to get into a job/field/opportunity.

Happy Job hunting,
Bennett Fonacier, Founder, Founder Tri-Valley Web


Terry Starr January 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Fabulous article — I also wanted to let you know that just 2 weeks ago, my partner, Bradi Nathan, and I launched a new social networking site to help moms return to the workforce and for those seeking work/life harmony:

Please join our Community where we offer expert advice, Celebrity and Peer mentorship, support and ultimately, solutions including a robust job board.

See you in the Community!
Terry Starr, Co-Founder, Butterfly


Kevin Regan January 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I liked your article, I agree I think if a person can be successful starting their own business in this climate they can be successful in any environment. I Started a small manufacturing business 45 days ago and closed my first deal in 3 weeks. I designed a plastic injector to make things out of plastic. Anyway I sell them and various other things for people to build their own products. One of my customers is making President Obama medallions to sell in washington and harlem. Feel free to check out my site.


Vikey January 21, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Murphy’s Law especially the 3rd one, ” Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way”

Check out an interesting and exciting game of “layoff survival” check out, a fun way to see different options to survive layoff.


Mike V January 15, 2009 at 10:41 am

Great article, Andrew. From my perspective, I speak with recruiters every day who are moving toward non-traditional methods of finding candidates. As a jobseeker, If you don’t want to be lost in the shuffle of online applications and Monster bulk downloads, you need to differentiate yourself and make yourself highly visible on these emerging channels & networks.


Steven Savage January 15, 2009 at 10:35 am

Oh and as a side note, do not let networking lapse after you find a job. I send out emails to past co-workers every few months to check up on them.

I still stay in touch with recruiters, and refer my friends, ex-co-workers, and people looking to recruit to them. It keeps my friends happy and lets me build good relations with recruiters.


Steven Savage January 15, 2009 at 10:33 am

Great advice. I’ve been posting some of your links to my blog on “Geeky jobs” and it’s very solid.

The two biggest things out there are good networking and knowing your industry. In my last job search, those are what paid off for me.


Jason Alba January 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

Thanks for referring to my post in point #5. That came from thinking about being at home too much, which I did. There is power in getting out!

Also, for points 4 and 9, networking is huge. Let me suggest you organize and manage your networking efforts. I met a ton of people and didn’t keep track of them very well, which meant I lost follow-up opportunities.

I actually created to be a web-based alternative to the job search spreadsheet, but it became more than that – a career management tool to help you network even between job searches.

Jason Alba
Author – I’m on LinkedIn — Now What???


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