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Workers worry about jobs as economy struggles

Readers have questions on how they should handle career dilemmas that are largely related to the struggling economy.

Lately, the emails I’ve been getting from readers include career dilemmas that are largely related to the struggling economy.

Some of you realize you may have to relocate for a job because of the grim employment picture in your town. Others have found employers aren’t funding certain projects, or cutting back on staffing so you’re having to pick up the slack. And still others just can’t find a job no matter how many resumes they send out and how qualified they are.

Below I include e-mails from readers who are facing major job issues and need advice; and also an example of employee who found his own way to deal with tough economic times.

If you have a question about how to maximize your career in an employment slump, or you’ve figured out how to beat the job blues and want to share your story, please e-mail me at

In the weeks ahead, I’m going to include your emails about how you’re coping with this weakening job market; and also answer questions you may have on how to find a job, keep your job, and how to stay on your career track in what many believe are the dog days of recession.

While I’m sure there are segments of the economy that are indeed doing well and jobs are not in jeopardy, I will only be focusing on those who need help right now.

So, let’s hold hands through this so we can weather the downturn together.

(Please keep in mind that I may not be able to get to all your e-mails, but I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can.)

I’ll start out with a reader who turned career lemons into lemonade, the frozen kind.

Jeffrey Marini from Shelton, Connecticut, had applied to tons of jobs from Boston to Philadelphia and couldn’t find a gig.

Even though he had an MBA and a strong background in marketing his job search turned up nothing. He temped for a while and ultimately became a Realtor, which has been tough going because of the housing slump.

He wrote me in early March asking for advice, but when I got back to him he had already embarked on a new career plan.

"I am going to start a new business venture, while continuing to work in the real estate market. Three of my friends have invested money into purchasing three Rita's Water Ice franchises. They want me to manage their first store during the weekdays.  It is a great opportunity that will give me a weekly paycheck and allow me to still work in real estate full-time.

"My grand plan is to still stay in real estate and survive the rough waters.  I want to also be involved with Rita's until I gain enough equity to make it worth my while."

Marini sees his future in franchising, but keep in mind it’s not for everyone, so do you homework before you start any business venture. (Here’s a blog post I wrote about franchising to get you started.)

And here are some of your career questions:

From a "junior apprentice programmer" at my first job to [advancing to a position with] responsibilities including OEM/channel partner relations, event presentations, and documentation and support management in only 18 months. I then ventured out to co-founded a technology startup in the VoIP arena back in 2001.

I did manage to land a senior management position with a great group of people, but unfortunately the company got sold and even those who had been around for a while weren’t safe. 

So here I am working the networks trying just for the opportunity to have a conversation with someone about an opening.  I can’t remember not being offered a job I wanted when I had the chance for a face-to-face interview.

Should my time with the start-up be somehow presented differently on my resume than the other positions I’ve held?  How do you get past what I see as the HR block? 

— S.T. from Eatontown, N.J.

This is the burning question: How do you get beyond the human resources department?

It’s time to "really ramp up his direct networking — letting his peers and their peers know his goals and his current need," advises Matthew Moran, author of The IT Career Builder's Toolkit who blogs at “He may already be doing this but again, in most higher-value, higher-power roles, meeting with HR is more a formality due to the higher-level relationship that brings him into the position.”

I recently wrote a story on how to land an interview and it includes some other tips on getting your name out there, including starting up your own blog.

As for positioning his past experience on his resume, Moran says, "he needs to be clear about his role in the startup, which, as startups are, require that he wore several hats."

Something along these lines: "While my official title at XYZ company was CEO, I was directly involved and responsible for sales, marketing, and other channel relationships — as well as direct technology utilization.  Startups are, by nature, situations that require an exceptionally broad perspective and I am confident that my experience and knowledge gained during that time will provide direct application in helping your organization."

I am a marketing professional who has spent my nine year post-MBA career at 2 Fortune 500 tech companies . I have held various marketing roles and usually am rated most effective/top performer in yearly reviews, but I have never been promoted to run a team with direct reports.  Part of this may have been due to layoffs/re-organizations because of the downturn in tech.

But now I am in a situation where it looks like I will be promoted to my directors job to lead our team of 8.  However I really do not think the team has the resources to effectively perform what is being asked of them, and we have been told point blank no further resources are available.

My dilemma is, do I take this opportunity and finally move into a people manager role and out of "good worker bee" mode even though the team itself is under-resourced and I may become just as frustrated as my former boss?  Or do I turn down this opportunity and stay a worker bee and wait for a better situation where I will have a much greater chance of success? 

I’m 38 and starting to see folks younger than me climb faster into management ranks and makes me somewhat uneasy.

— Never-promoted Pat

Unfortunately, much of the corporate world today is under-funding projects, divisions, etc. It's the nature of the beast in a tough economy.

Have you considered moving into the role and then making a case for more money? That way you're on the inside and can fight for your group.

If you want to move up the ladder you might have to take on tough assignments. You may fail, or make mistakes but that's just part of learning and moving up.

Many of the top-level executives I've interviewed talk about all the mistakes they've made and wear them almost like badges of honor.

You don't want to be sabotaged by a company that just doesn't have its act together, but you've worked for this firm for a while and it sounds like they're not totally inept, right? Then you can reason with them when you step into this leadership role.

If you prove you can provide results they may be more apt to give you more funds. Results, results, results will be key in getting yourself career points during a sluggish economy.