Looking For Work in Uncertain Times
By Jan Shope, M.A., LPC


What Do I Do Now?


Today’s job market is enough to make anyone cringe at the thought of having to be out there “looking for a needle in a haystack.” 


You may wonder, are there enough jobs to go around? What if I don’t have what it takes to be competitive? Job hunting, and all of the stress that goes with it, is difficult enough. But with the terrible news coming out of Washington and Wall Street, looking for a job can make your head spin and cause you to wonder, "Where do I start?" or "Is it even worth it?"


Well, there is good news out there, believe it or not. The numbers do show that jobs are to be had and people are needed to fill them. It is helpful to have a computer and to know how employers search for job prospects. But perhaps most importantly, it is helpful to know yourself. That may seem like a silly thing to contemplate at this most stressful time. But some people really don’t know themselves like they think they might, especially where finding a good job or career is concerned. This is the first in a series of articles offering practical advice in the areas of career and job pursuit. In them I will focus on one or two topics of concern for the person who is either “out there” looking or soon will be - or - who simply thinks that his or her current job is not the best fit and wants to pursue a new job or even a whole new career.

Our theme is is: “How to out-think the employer: crafting your job search so that you are where they are looking.” According to Richard Nelson Bolles, who wrote What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers, many employers conduct their search to fill a vacancy in the opposite fashion that most job seekers do their search. It is helpful to understand this when you are wondering where to concentrate your efforts. The following is a list from Mr. Bolles’ book. 

Each column represents in order of preference, the respective ways searches are conducted.

Typical Employer

  • Hires from within: Promotes a full-time employee; or makes a present part-time employee full-time; or hires a former consultant for in-house; or promotes a former “temp” to full-time.

  • Value proof: Hires an unknown job seeker who brings in proof of things she can do that demonstrate competency skills needed for the position.

  • Seeks referrals and recommendations. Gets referrals from friends and business colleagues or hires someone whose work has been verified by someone they know and trust (maybe their former employee).

  • Uses an agency they trust: could be a recruiter or search firm hired by the employer or a private employment agency.

  • Places ad posting the position to the public.

  • Evaluates resumes received from public.

Typical Job Seeker

  • Creates a resume and sends it out blindly.

  • Searches through ads placed in newspapers or online, etc.

  • Looks for a job through an employment agency.

  • Asks someone who knows someone with the power to hire at the place they want to work.

  • Sends sample of work as “proof” of skills required for the position you desire.

  • Seeks full-time positions at places worked previously, either as a temp assignment or as a consultant.



As you can see, employers and job seekers often work at cross purposes from one another. The implication for job seekers is obvious, think the way employers think. Think of the job you want that you are particularly qualified for. Go after it by thinking of everyone you know who might know someone in that field and has the power to hire you. If you run out of those prospects, go to temp agencies (or head hunter companies) and ask to be placed in an organization where you can use the skills you have acquired and enjoy, with the goal of eventually being hired full-time.

Thinking “outside the box” when you are looking for a job will go a long way. As a matter of fact, using your head is absolutely required. Job searching, like soul searching, is quite the cerebral experience. Later articles will go into this idea further. But whatever you do, don’t give up hope. Defeating oneself at this point is not an option.


©Jan Shope, M.A., L.P.C 2009. All rights reserved. Ms. Shope is a professional counselor and life coach specializing in individual, couples, and family psychotherapy and maintains a private practice in Spicewood, Texas.

With over eight years experience as a clinician, and a graduate of Texas State University specializing in professional counseling, Ms. Shope is currently serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients. Among her areas of expertise are anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and couples dealing with divorce and parenting issue.