The Worst Time Since The Great Depression?

I don’t care what the news might say about how things are getting better.  And I don’t care if we’re on the upswing from this recession.

The bottom line is, this is really, really hard. We all know business owners who have gone out of business.  We all know people who have lost their jobs.  We all know people who have been in a job search for over a year.  If there is a light at the end of the tunnel it sure seems really dim, or like a pinhole.

In a Yahoo Group I’m on someone said that this is the worst she’s seen since the Great Depression… I agree with that… but there are a few differences. Here was my response to her email.  I hope this can give you hope – I didn’t plan on sharing on this blog when I wrote it, but it’s been on my mind all night/morning:

Individual greatness has and will come from this, however.  For me, one of the greatest things I think I can see from this is that people start to consider their careers differently – it is no longer the company’s to manage, it is MINE.  What can I do to have some kind of income security?

As people go through this paradigm shift we’ll see the evolution of the career – it has to happen – we’ve been forced into it (by virtue of lack of loyalty between employers and employees) – now the economy is forcing us to really, really address it.

Anyone want to trust their career to HR?  Maybe a few years ago, but many people now are “getting it.”  It’s a hard lesson, for sure, but I think we’ll see a more empowered workforce come out of this.

Chris Brogan recently wrote in his newsletter that there might not be a lot of jobs out there, but there is a TON of money – can we, as personal career managers, start to think about how to create income security (as opposed to job security) by earning some of that money?

If so, then we’ll see a terrific product when all the dust settles.

It might be a crappy economy, but that doesn’t mean we have to let that dictate what happens to US!  Retool and conquer!

21 thoughts on “The Worst Time Since The Great Depression?”

  1. Totally agree, Jason. I’ve been self-employed for over 25 years and there have been plenty of feasts and famine. It all has to do with planning, thinking, being open to innovation, and networking. I get tired of the whine that says it is everyone else’s fault. This is the time to be creative, move out of doing things the same old way, blaming others, blaming big companies, blaming, and on to thinking opportunity, what can I do with the new tools, what can I study or learn, what services are missing that I could fill a niche with… how can I help make this a better place and me a happier person… or you can just sit around and whine!

  2. As a blue-collar boy who went on to college in his 30’s (with four children to feed) and moved to a career in publishing, I’d like to point out that one thing keeping people in dead-end jobs has been health insurance. Yes, careers should be mobile to succeed. But it’s difficult for many people to survive a shift, when changing jobs means a new health program won’t cover “pre-existing conditions.”

    Our civilization shapes its work force in many subtle ways. During the early days of the U.S., land giveaways propelled people westward to build farms and create small communities (and drive out Native Americans). Multigenerational families were the norm. With the rise of industrialism, individuals were lured to major cities, and the nuclear family of Ma, Pa, and children under 18 was born. In the 1930’s, government began propagating the “American Dream” of home ownership to build a large, stable tax base. These are just a few examples of generational shifts in work force perspectives, fostered by national interests.

    Now we’re going through another cultural shift, away from life-long commitment to a single company, with a pension at the end (government workers being an exception), toward mobility and personal responsibility. It’s well and good for you to say people shouldn’t “whine,” Julie, but self-employment doesn’t answer all needs. A civilization requires janitors, too, and it’s wrong to treat those people as disposable just because you and I and Jason have more flexible career successes.

    Obviously, one answer doesn’t fit all career situations. To quote William Blake, “one law for both the lion and the ox is tyranny.”

  3. Julie, to say people are whining is a bit insensitive. Especially for a person who writes resumes for a living! People are struggling to make ends meet…they are free to whine at this point!

    Lester, I agree with you. Health care coverage is keep many people in dead-end jobs. We should be open minded enough to want to take care of each other. Imagine if business owners didn’t have to worry about health care coverage because EVERYONE paid into the pot. We could take even more risks and reap the rewards.

    It’s not about whining anymore….it’s about reality. Men and Women lie, numbers don’t. People need help!!

  4. I was not trying to be insensitive and for the record, A.) I haven’t been able to afford health insurance since 2005 when the cost of the premiums and the deductible on the plan I self-paid for 20 years was too much and didn’t cover our “pre-existing conditions” and they ridered a new condition everytime some one had one. See my blog post on health care. We need to fix it, we just need to know how and be careful about government programs that end up creating a new mess or tacking on a host of other bills.

    B.) As a self-employed resume writer (and my colleagues can relate), we do better in a good economy because whether people need us or not, they will fund other things than using a professional. We get that, we think it is unfortunate because what any one of us knows about resumes is more than the average person who writes an occasional one. In a good economy, the people who seek out resume writers are forward-thinking people who see it as an investment to move their career forward. In a bad economy, it is the same people but they move less. I struggle, just like the rest of you to pay bills, try to make good decisions about purchases and determine what will have to wait.

    C.) Like many of my colleagues, we have found ways to help people who really can’t afford us. Either by publishing a ton of tips and suggestions, or in some cases, donating our services.

    I’m not ever suggesting that everyone should be self-employed and I don’t think Jason does either but I do believe that people get a concept of themselves as only fitting one role and they don’t take the time to see if there are other opportunities out there for them to fill. Too often the job search strategies that are being used are ineffective, the days of newspaper ads or even most online job boards are gone. To find the right position you have to research and determine what companies are still hiring.

    As far as not whining, even when I do whine… or vent, I know that is what I am doing. Many people blame everyone else but don’t make the next move. Economies are complex and having a doom and gloom attitude will prolong the recovery.

  5. Good points, Julie. (I didn’t mean to start an intervention or anything.)

    As you explain, we’ve reached a time when people have to think about themselves and the paths to employment differently. And they have to be open to change.

    The trick, I believe, is giving them hope. When I attended public school, the overarching skills were “stand in line” and “answer the bell,” perfectly suited for factory work. By the time my children reached public school, those skills were overshadowed by “hand in the right paper in the right folder on time,” perfectly suited for cubicle work. Fortunately, students today are learning “the teacher doesn’t know everything, but I can search for it myself online,” which is suited for a future of invention.

    Alvin and Heidi Toffler (authors of *Future Shock* and *The Third Wave*) have said that we’re undergoing one of the three greatest cultural shifts in history. The first, from hunter/gatherer to agriculture, took about three thousand years; the second, to industrialism, about three hundred years; and the third, to information-economy, only thirty. In each shift, those who could not make the adjustment suffered, while those who rode the wave found a new prosperity and longevity.

    I remember how difficult it was to even *imagine* leaving my factory job to attend college, and how often it seemed the maze to success was intentionally designed to thwart people of my background. I still believe the “have’s” lack any real conception of how uneven the playing field is against the “have not’s.” But as you say, frustration gets us nowhere–what’s required is personal reinvention.

    Now, if we can get that message to people in a positive way–pointing them to examples of success that they can understand and follow–we’ll be doing good work.

  6. We are all self employed–hat tip to BTO’s ‘Takin’ Care of Business’–the problem is that the vast majority of people haven’t realized that and/or don’t act accordingly. Part of the problem appears in the next line of the song: we love to work at nothing all day. Each of us should be a growth business, and managing ourselves as such!

  7. Demetrius,
    What I’m hearing Jason and Julie say is that we have much more control over destiny than most of us believe or act upon.

    Had I not changed careers after a layoff in 2001, I would still be an unemployed IT worker. Losing a steady paycheck and company paid insurance has forced me to march with others in support of healthcare reform. I survived the recession of 2001.

    I become discouraged when job seekers are presented tools and knowledge, much of it free, yet they choose to do nothing with it. Do you know how many blog postings that I’ve read where job seekers are not willing to pay a professional resume writer more than $50 for a new resume? It costs more than that just to have Dish people come out and install a new satellite for their HDTVs. Yet I don’t see the satellite tv companies struggling in this economy.

    Why do I see so many horrible resumes when excellent samples abound on the Internet, libraries and in bookstores? Articles are posted regarding the importance of keywords and algorythms and job search success yet few put them into action. I know people in their 30’s and 40’s with poor computer skills who complain they can’t find a job because the employer wants you to apply online. Yet they won’t take a computer class to build those skills.

    It is heartbreaking for me to see what is happening and to know that certain people will not survive this recession unless they decide to accept change.

  8. Great comments…..and it is bad out there. However, I heard someone recently on one of the talk shows say “Yes, the economy is bad, but we are CHOOSING NOT to participate in it…..” The point being made is that even though you may be facing a terrible situation, a positive attitude and the choices you make can have all the difference in the world.

    Finding a job is a marketing and sales effort. During tough times and down markets, it is those who increase their marketing and sales efforts who are the winners when the economy makes the turn. Although my bank account does not reflect it, nor does my wife completely share my opinion, but I feel that I have been blessed during this time by having an opportunity to meet many many wonderful people. If I was not marketing or selling, I would have never met these people nor would I have had a chance to create some relationships that I trust will prove to me more profitable for me in the future.

    So, look closely at your attitude, at the choice you are making and the message you are sending. You can either hunker down during these tough times and wait, or you can choose to take this opportunity and make the most of it for you and your family. (No need to tell me, easier said than done…I know this oh so well).

    By the way, if any of you are interested in networking with a software/SaaS business development and channels sales professional let me know. Would be happy to connect with you and see if we might be able to help one another.


  9. I’m sorry people, but for the most part we don’t have total control over our destinies. That’s just a fact. I think it’s also important to understand that we are too obsessed with the ideology of positive thinking. The relentless push to always be positive and upbeat combined with our sometimes idiotic concept of individualism hasn’t been doing us any favors lately – this positivity has infected so many levels of our society and the repercussions have been devastating (just one example – Bush (the leader of “Optimism” was what he liked to call himself, and he’s gone on to be a motivational speaker. He wouldn’t allow any negativity in the WH, and there is a chilling connection to this insistence upon positive thinking and the overlooking of things leading up to 9/11).

    All this individualism and obsession with succeeding alone is in many case hogwash. It certainly doesn’t help when you realize that collective action can have far more powerful results than some lone person (just think of the major movements that have occurred in this country alone – the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, anti-war movements etc., etc. – that resulted in positive change for millions of people). That doesn’t mean I don’t respect and understand entrepreneurial success – I think that’s one of the forces that makes the middle class (and not just in this country but historically-speaking too) the most dynamic social class to have ever existed (that’s Marx’s words, and I’m a thief). My worry is that this country has been turned into a plutocracy, so the ability for the middle class to actually enable people to be entrepreneurial will die. But again, I am speaking of the way in which a CLASS allows for people within it (and beneath it) to flourish in, say, personal business. So, again, it’s also collective power that allows for that. But I digress . . .

    I encourage all of you to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s recent book, Bright-Sided

    I am a political activist and advocate for people who are struggling to pay off their student loan debt – it’s really a debt trap that was effectively created by a complex relationship of institutions and poor oversight by the institutions that should have been and should BE ensuring that the most vulnerable individuals are protected. Often the critics who come to my blog say things like, “that’s just HOW it is. That’s reality.” Now that type of negative thinking is ridiculous. I like that my blog is a place where people who are in deep trouble financially can congregate and share their fears without being told that they need to smile more, put more crap on their resume, etc., etc. Instead, it shows that there are many things beyond their own control (mind you, most of my readers are like me and work at least 2 jobs, if not more). However, that doesn’t mean we should just accept it as reality. That’s when collective change and the hope that as a group of people we can make a difference – and that’s not the same as “team playing.”

    Ehrenreich’s book put these things into perspective.

    I’m not trying to pick on you, Julie, but your closing remark struck me by the way in which Ehrenreich’s takes issue with the ideology of positive thinking. You wrote, “Economies are complex and having a doom and gloom attitude will prolong the recovery.” Really?

    I mean, you are obviously correct and also clearly bright (again, I’m really not trying to attack you or anyone on this board). As you stated well, economies are complex, but a healthy dose of negativity when analyzing these things doesn’t necessarily mean that we wont’ eventually recover. In fact, people need to be exposed to the negative aspects of WHY we got here in the first place. And covering it up with attitudes that are only optimistic isn’t the best solution. I think the very structures of our recent housing developments and suburban sprawl show the devastating effects of creating a world that only reflects positivity – it’s safe, tidy, and filled with big McMansions. That’s hardly the reality of our actual world, and I wouldn’t dare raise a family in such a setting. Again, I am not looking down my nose at people who live in these types of suburban developments (hell, I come from one). But I do think it would do us some good to think about these structures through a sociological lens and consider the ways in which they are a physical representation of our obsessions with individuality and ideological belief in positivity. Besides, the ‘burbs can be awful isolating and lonely – that’s a good thing for a plutocracy, too. The more isolated people are, the better it is for the system to keep crankin’ along and screwin’ (excuse my crude language) the little people.

    -Ms. C. Cryn Johannsen
    Creator of Education Matters

  10. There are a few points that are getting missed I think are relevant. Not everyone has the ability to
    be the individual success it’s like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”, I swear I’ll never go hungry again
    as opposed to Dick Farina’s quote and book Been down so long looks like up to me.

    The statistic of 1 in 5 are unemployed, underemployed, and whatever else was there not everyone wants to be an enterpeneur which is an area a lot of this seems going. In some cases it can be bad or worse than the infomercials with I did it and you can do it to.
    So it sounds like condemnation because they can’t be a success but the other person is. Which leads to the unmentionable or under mentioned issue of mental health. Sorry but depression has a real effect on people’s abilities. The push can make people more depressed.
    Suicide statistics are not in real time what we do know is military and ex military suicide stats have hit an all time high and growing. Death by Train is also a real time available statistic.
    I was working in a careeronestop when this was starting we knew it was happening being under reported but no one could of realized how far and deep it would go and still may go.
    So all I’d suggest is temper the language at times and work on touching these groups in a positive way

  11. I agree wholeheartedly! There are not enough jobs for everyone and likely won’t be for many years.

    Our point as career professionals has been best said by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” – “The One Who Gets the Job Is Not the Best Qualified, But the One Who Knows the Most About Getting A Job”

    If you are using the best tools and using them correctly; you can be that candidate who gets the job.

  12. Let me jump in … the dialogue here has been really rich and for that I thank each of you.

    If it weren’t for Julie’s comment about whining, I think there might have been, well, one comment here. She certainly sparked ire and passion!

    I have come to know Julie as a kind, VERY CARING, compassionate, and giving professional. She does stuff in the career space and outside of the career space… and I know she gives to a lot of people who can’t afford professional help.

    Big heart.

    Is she judgmental about whiners? I’m not sure if that is frustration from working with job seekers who don’t do what they should (where’s the big ready EASY button??), or from people who complain and pontificate and present issues without wanting to lift a finger… or perhaps it was letting off some steam about something unrelated… but whatever it was, I’ll vouch for her character and intention…

    Thanks to each of you for being passionate about this topic 🙂

  13. Not knowing Jason or his readers well, hope you won’t mind if I share a few thoughts and personal perspectives with you.

    First, like many of you using Jason’s site, I am also one of the many unemployed and actively seeking work. With 2 kids in college, and my own expenses, this is no time for me to let the challenges and hardship deter me from my quest.

    From a longer term perspective the US economy has hit a near ‘Perfect Storm’:
    • The US has been deficit spending for decades to prop our current lifestyle and comforts, to the detriment of ourselves and future generations. But, we all know this can’t last forever.
    • We are seeing a true Information Revolution, much like the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The industrial revolution created huge job displacements, and farming jobs moved to the cities. The Internet we all love and have grown to ‘expect’ has removed a huge amount of the barriers that kept jobs and companies in the US solid. Now equally qualified people in China, India and other countries, willing to do the work for less money are prospering. But, that doesn’t make it hurt any less here. Check out “A Whole New Mind” to learn how Asia, Abundance and Automation are having a huge impact on our world.
    • Because of these huge changes, many companies, families and our government have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. While it hurts that I lost my job, I would rather see 90% of my friends and coworkers keep theirs than risk the whole company going down. And told them so at the time.
    • In fact, this is the worst economic downturn in most of our lifetime, except those who are still with us who survived the Great Depression.

    While all the facts don’t lessen the pain of this change, we can either be the ‘last buggywhip maker’ or accept and adjust to the new realities. That’s the only way to pay the bills, be a contributing member of our society and does help one feel good at the end of the day having done their best to take positive steps forward. While there is a time to grieve ones loss, there is also a time to stand up, help one another and work to make things better for yourself and society.

    Now, the rest of the story (thank you Paul Harvey):
    • I happen to know that Jason went through a similar change, and from that started JibberJobber and the many other ventures he has going. He’s seen the new wave, and is helping guide others along the path. Including me.
    • I can also tell you that another person has been a HUGE help to me in many ways. Help with encouragement, coaching and truly caring. Plus helped me craft a personal brand, currently relevant resume and refresh skills. That person is Julie Walraven. While you might find the ‘whine’ word harsh, does it help any of us to play the ‘blame game’ or to take ownership and do the best we can everyday? If you needed any help from your resume, to personal branding, social media or career coaching, I couldn’t recommend Julie more highly.

    Of course, it’s not your fault or mine that the economy is a mess, people are losing their jobs and worse. The only real question to me is, what are we going to do about it? An easy choice for me. A sincere offer to help is something I always appreciate. Let me know if I can help you.


  14. Can I just apologize if anything I said caused an uproar about Julie’s comment. I might have been a bit oversensitive and calling her “insensitive”. For that, I truly apologize.

    I just know people who are going through the struggle. Yes, it’s a struggle and I’m sure we all see it everyday. We all know someone who is unemployed and having hard times.

    Look at the numbers, they don’t lie.

    I’m fortunate to be employed and running a business. I know that every day when I read the news and watch TV.

    People aren’t whining, they freakin’ need help!

    I’m doing my part.

  15. Correction (can’t edit a comment):

    “bit oversensitive and calling her “insensitive”.”

    bit oversensitive IN calling her “insensitive”.

    Just wanted to clear that up.


  16. Jason, I agree. The sounds of a large toilet flush surround us every day when it comes to the state of the economy. Like TJ says, “the US economy has hit a near ‘Perfect Storm’ “.

    There are a multitude of people who have suffered because of it. Some of that multitude have chosen to shift gears. They are the ones who are back in school to finish something that was started long ago, or to learn new skills. And some of them have started their own business. These are the people whom I commend for their efforts. When the opportunities arise, you will be first to reap the benefits. And to those like Julie, who give their all to help these people succeed, I hold you in the highest regard as well.

    To those who are waiting around for things to get better, well, it’s probably going to be a while. In the mean time, maybe you could work on those skills you’re going to need for your next job. Whatever you do, be prepared. If you need your resume retooled, please give Julie a shout. She is one of the best.

    My heart goes out to those who are finding the holiday season a bit dismal. I wish you peace.

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