Career Counseling Survival Tips: Helping Clients Find Employment During a Recession

by Darlene Fritz, M.A.

Over the past several months, I have noticed a change in the types of people who have been seeking help with their career development, especially in relation to job search. More and more people who have advanced degrees and extensive work experience are struggling with finding employment. Because of this, their self-confidence is dropping which makes it even more difficult for them to market themselves.

One of the contributing factors to this phenomenon is the economy. Oregon is not the only state currently in a recession. Businesses are closing in high numbers, state government and schools are making cuts, and many employers are delaying filling positions until they are more certain about their financial stability.

This can be a very difficult time for not only for job seekers, but also for career counselors. It's easy to wonder if we're doing all that we can to help our clients through the job search process when the economy is not cooperating. One of my favorite coping strategies when I am feeling this way is to talk to other professionals and share "best practices". I had an amazing opportunity to do this during the International Career Development Conference in Irvine, California in November. Here are some of my favorite suggestions along with their originators:

    "Encourage clients to take an "interim" job -something to pay the bills while they keep looking for what they really want. It's all about degrees of freedom. Take risks and embrace the freedom, responding to events in an emotionally positive way."
    Howard Figler, Ph.D., Howard Figler and Associates, California

    "Help people expand their vision/options beyond what they've been doing -identify transferable skills and do market research."
    Betty B. Kelley, Ph.D., NCCC, Action Associates, New Mexico

    "Counselors need to take on an advocate role for education/retraining funding for those who don't have their own resources. Find ways for people to be hopeful while still paying attention to reality. Encourage creativity."
    Martha Russell, M.S., NCC, Russell Career Services, Washington


    "Job search is discouraging. Let your clients know that the rejection isn't about them. There's not anything wrong with them, it's the economic climate. Encourage them to keep at it and try new things."
    John D. Krumboltz, Professor of Education and Psychology, Stanford University, California

    "Networking is one of the most effective ways to find employment. Job searching is a tough job! Review your client's support system, and encourage them to use it!"
    Cher Yazvac, Career Services Consultant, Purdue University

    "Job seekers need to increase the amount of time they spend working on themselves (knowing their own values, skills, etc.) during their job search. Over 80% of all job seekers give up within the first two months. If your client is using only one method of job search, encourage them to use 2-3 additional methods (no more than 4 total). This will increase their chances for success."
    Dick Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?, California

After spending five days talking to career development theorists, experts, and professionals, we concluded that there really aren't any "new techniques" that we can use with our clients during a recession. What we need to do is be more intentional about providing the support, resources, and techniques that we already know. During a good economy, job seekers can "get away with" not using the most effective job search techniques. This is no longer the case. We need to give our clients and ourselves permission to experiment, be patient, and surround ourselves with people who will support us during these tough times.

Darlene Fritz has a Master's Degree in Career Development from John F. Kennedy University, is an active member of the National Career Development Association, and President-Elect of the Oregon Career Development Association. She has over fifteen years of experience working in the career development field including work in community college, private rehabilitation, and non-profit settings. She has been with Chemeketa Community College for the past eleven years. Darlene's current positions at Chemeketa are Project Specialist for the Winema Job and Career Center (one-stop) and Instructor for the Counseling and Career Services Department, teaching the Career Development Facilitator (CDF) classes. She can be reached at darlene@chemeketa.edu .

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