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It's a post-attack market and job cuts have doubled. More than older workers are concerned about where and how to find work. Take these roller coaster times and make them work for you.

I've lost my job. I'm over 50 [in my 30s] and deeply in debt. The stock market has plummeted. We're about to have a revisit of the 1930s Depression. Since the 11th, job cuts are more the rule than the exception. How do I find a job and where?

The job market was already bad before September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that day, massive job cuts in the airline industry have predominated the headlines. The travel industry in general is as (if not more so) stymied by the shocks of two weeks ago and the heightened need for security measures as many other industries.

We already have a tight, stagnant economy and sparse IT jobs. The crash of job opportunities in the travel industry, coupled with last week's plummeting figures of the stock market and the pressures of the twenty- and thirty-something jobseekers in tension with the Baby Boomers mean we've set ourselves up for riding in the first car on the roller coaster as it inexorbiably jettisons its way down the first dip.

Yes, things are frightening. In the alternative, we may want to think of this time as the roller coaster slowly inching its way back up and through the rest of the course. Think of these times and circumstances as a door being opened to new opportunities. It's exciting to go racing off into possibilities and new vistas.

While the dust is settling, there are some holding-pattern tactics you can employ. Consider taking a job that is slightly less than you held before. This can be a situation where you can grow back into where you were before or try out something new. Try doing temporary work or even work part time. It will hold you over until a full time situation is your reward for a good search. Keep your network alive and well; use it. Have several contingency plans and milestones for breakeven points that signal when the alternate plan should be implemented. If you have a small amount of savings that's more than the standard six-month buffer, consider starting your own small business or consultancy.

Just a few weeks ago, we talked about alternatives for older workers. That counsel still applies; now it applies for both more senior job holders and job seekers as well as younger ones.

Cost Center Mentality
The other prudent thing to keep in mind now (even more now that usual) is that when we accept employment, we become a cost center that creates a life determination of how long the position will last. The more that the worker adds to the company's profits in some fashion and either keeps costs down or else reduces them, the more likely that person will survive these times. The more they can add to the business -- be it revenues, new markets, new or stronger alliances or innovations -- the stronger their viability.

Likewise, when interviewing, the employer is looking for someone who will think in terms of what skills and talents the candidate has that will add to the profit mix and grow the business. If you're looking for a place where you can get paid to come into the office, you won't find too many opportunities where you'll be a good match.

New Vistas
But it's important to keep in mind that now is a more than exciting time because of the possibilities that are now more open than before. People are being forced to look at their alternatives. Some may be enormously happy, like the woman I met recently who was laid off from her lifetime career. While she drew unemployment, she took time to reassess what she wanted and what her personal characteristics are. She also took advantage of her informal network where she had a passing interest and friendly relations with the antique store owner.

Her strengths were being exceptionally organized and managerial in nature. Adding to her strengths was her background in business operations. Circumstances meshed. The antique store owner had three times the business he, his wife and son could manage. The business was in chaos. The four agreed that she would come in and work for them part time, a few hours a day, to help them get organized and under control. She claims she has absolutely no interest in antiques or that business. But it's now several years later. She works there full time. The owner-family doesn't want her to go; she's enjoying what she does. The business is thriving because of the benefits she brings to her position.

Don't rule out something you always thought of as a hobby or never even remotely considered before.

Nontraditional employment is also a possibility if it is not your present field.

What Do You Have to Offer
And that brings me back to the heart of this sermon. Make certain that during your initial contact, your interview, and your collecting of leads that you bear in mind what you have to offer in terms of quantifiable skills, achievements, and knowledge that speak of reducing costs, increasing efficiency and/or customer relations, better profits, business expansion, increased business assets and reduction of debt or liability. Be a thinker and a communicator. Be prudent about how you interact with people. Be a team member and a team player, not a full-time star.

This is a time when both employers and recruiters as well as candidates need to focus their efforts instead of doing shotgun, hit-or-miss splatter. The large job boards are good. But this is the time to start looking at niche markets and exploiting the possibilities there. This advice applies to both sides of the interviewing desk. Specialty is the place to look; diversity is the talent to have.

Coupled with niche market penetration is conducting a search on corporate websites for career openings. Yet another avenue of search is contacting friends or acquaintances who are already in a company. Ask them about any new opportunities that are posted on the bulletin board there or find out the contact number of the Human Resources department so that you can get the current listings and learn what the desired qualifications are.

Last week's news reported that some of the outsourcing firms are beefing up their marketing campaigns in order to accommodate the numbers who are now in the job market. They are ready and more than willing and able to work with those who are part of the economic, post-attack shrapnel. Let them use you; use them.

Yes, this is a roller coaster ride time. Just think of the excitement if you use it the right way.

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Originally published September 25, 2001.