Where Do I Find Work in a Down Economy?

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In a down economy, training is one of the first corporate budgets to be cut. Training departments usually hang on for a cycle or two, but then the inevitable happens—trainer positions are eliminated. If training demand continues in some areas, the remaining trainers or contract trainers are used to satisfy the demand.

Oddly enough, when the initial downturn and initial layoffs occur, contract trainers may actually get more work. American businesses are increasingly opting for contract workers because they do not have to pay benefits or make long commitments to the contactors. This is expected behavior in a down market.

But after months of decreasing needs, even the contact trainers have trouble keeping their schedules full. So, what’s a trainer to do?

The obvious thing is to give up training and become more of a “doer” for a time. Being a “doer” will help your training classes when they rev back up, so this is a good thing. This approach is probably more successful if you are interested in being a contractor than it is if you are wanting full-time employment. Hiring managers will almost certainly want to know why you are looking for a full-time technical position. If you love training like most trainers, it will be difficult to convince the hiring manager that you have decided that you would rather do than train. Faking it probably won’t work.

If you are willing to be a contract network administrator, troubleshooter or other technical support person, you will need to work your human network to uncover opportunities. Hopefully you have kept contact information for the students who have come through your classes. Maybe you even know something about their companies and their needs from class discussion. Contact these people, preferably via telephone, to check on their current status and their company’s possible needs for your services. Don’t forget toyou’re your contacts if they might know of someone else who could use your skills.

Also, contact the companies advertising for permanent employees to see if your skills might tide them over until they can find the perfect employee. In most cases, hiring decisions are taking longer to make in this economy, and having an interim solution would be welcome, even if you don’t have all the skills needed for the permanent position.

Contact temporary agencies in your area. Temporary agencies no longer represent only secretarial-type workers. There are several in most major metropolitan areas that represent the technical worker. By going through an agency, you may give up a few dollars per hour, but they will do the marketing for you.

If you want to stay in training, contact companies such as The Training Associates (www.thetrainingassociates.com). These companies are training brokers that fill needs across the country. Your skills may be needed in an area other than your hometown, so you will have to be willing to travel to get these positions. And these jobs will be short-term for the most part.

Another option if you want to stay in training is to contact your local community colleges and high schools. Community colleges need adjunct faculty to teach for them. If you are interested in becoming an adjunct faculty member, contact the actual department that would be using your skills, not human resources. If you contact human resources, your resume is likely to go into a large pile that may or may not ever reach the person who can hire you. If you contact the actual department, such as Engineering or Computer Science, ask to speak to the dean directly, and provide the dean with a detailed resume that shows in a nutshell what you are qualified to teach. Ask to come in and speak with the dean directly. Face-to-face contact has always been helpful.

Even high schools are getting emergency teacher credentials for technical faculty willing to teach in high school. This sort of emergency credential allows the person who hasn’t passed the state’s teacher certification examinations to teach on a temporary basis. A mid-year appointment is less likely than one at the beginning of the school year, but it is worth checking.

Finally, use the time to better your own repertoire of skills. If you don’t have a degree, maybe this is the time to get one, especially if you have unemployment benefits to support education. If you need further certification in an area or you need to broaden your skill set to include another area, unemployment benefits might cover these costs.

In any case, hold on. Our world is built on technology. Technical careers are not going away, and neither is the training for those technical workers. The trick is to craft your working career so that you can hold on until the upturn is strong.

Ann Beheler is executive director/dean of Collin County Community College’s Engineering Technology Division, which houses one of the nine Cisco CCNP academic instructor training centers in the world. E-mail Ann at abeheler@certmag.com.



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