Recession and Working Beneath Your Station: "Oh, how the mighty have fallen!"

Well, it looks like it's going to be an "official" recession, according

to the government bean counters that keep track of those things and

make those sorts of dire proclamations. Unofficially, it's felt like

one for some time, especially for those of us close to the dot-com


Nifty certifications to the contrary, some of us still can't get work

amidst the massive layoffs, cutbacks, mergers, and closures. One even

may feel obliged to succumb to the stern directives of one's mother-in-

law, spouse, or well-meaning parents who mistake your sitting on the

couch all day for laziness and suggest that you go out and put in

applications at the mall. You explain that none of the department

stores are hiring MCSEs right now, but are shocked when you learn that

their true intention is that you work as a department store clerk. Not

to worry, they have additional wisdom. Grocery stores will always

flourish because people need to eat and, as an alternative, you could

dispatch yourself immediately to the local Piggly Wiggly and make

yourself available as a shelf stocker.

The wisdom behind such advice is, of course, that something,

*anything*, is better than nothing. At the risk of providing excuses

for sitting on the couch all day, I'm going to tell you why this isn't

true. First of all, speaking from experience, when the hiring manager

(who is probably half your age and not as well-educated) sees a well-

dressed, well-educated, highly experienced and intelligent individual

such as yourself walking in the front door, they are probably

intimidated and believe you would eventually wind up with their job.

Secondly, the fact is, they just don't give jobs like that to people

like you and me -- and with good reason. They know we'd bolt at the

first opportunity -- and they're right.

The third reason I will posit goes like this: "You're only as good as

your last job." Of course, not every hiring manager is that

unforgiving, but it's an unfortunate fact of life and human nature that

your most recent experience will receive the greatest weight. If the

first item on your resume is manning the night counter at the Seven

Eleven, then you have successfully repositioned yourself as a minimum-

wage clerk who once knew something about computers. Lastly, if you're

spending every workday digging ditches, washing windows, or selling

shoes, then you won't have the time or energy to look for anything


Nevertheless, desperation makes people do strange things and you may

find it necessary to take a job as a cashier while you're looking for

the right position in the high-tech industry. Do so if you must, but

use this strategy: Downplay it as much as possible. I'm usually not an

advocate of leaving things off of your resume, but this is definitely

something to leave off. A job at the car wash is irrelevant to any

meaningful position to which you might apply, so you are justified in

forgetting about it. If there is a sizeable gap in time and you are

asked what you've been doing since your last job, then just respond

that you've been taking odd jobs to make ends meet and offer no more

detail than that.

Here's my last bit of wisdom for this week: Never give up. Understand

that the economy is in a sort of a pickle, and it may take longer than

you expected, but somewhere out there is a tech job with your name on


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