Why everyone is freaked out about the job market

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. It seems like almost daily someone asks me if people are getting hired, if the job market is getting any better, and if the worst has passed. I don’t really know how to answer these questions (my short answers are yes, a bit, I’m not sure) because everyone seems so unsettled. Here’s why I think people are nervous/concerned…

The cuts/reductions/lay offs are spread across industries and professions. There’s not just one industry that’s been hit. There’s no collective sigh of relief that “At least I don’t work in high tech.” Or, “Glad I didn’t take that dot com job…” For many of us, this is our first recession that has hit virtually every industry and every type of business.

Searching for work is hard work. If you’ve held onto a job for a long time, it doesn’t mean you love your job. It can mean that you’re more afraid of having to put yourself out there and find a new job. The thought of having to market themselves, meet new people and take some risks is terrifying to many, many people. Being out of work isn’t that scary, it’s looking for a new job that is downright scary. Puts a whole new spin on the panic, doesn’t it?

It’s a brand-new job market today – yes, it’s not your father’s job market… If you find yourself in the job market, you’re going to find it’s a whole new world out there. If you haven’t had recent job search experience, it can be very, very overwhelming. Just ask all of the newly unemployed middle managers who haven’t looked for work since the early 1990’s. Online applications, keyword resumes and even interviewing have evolved. The old rules just don’t apply. If you think Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com or Theladders.com are your best online job search resources, your career search will be long and challenging.

We’re continually bombarded by down-on-their-luck stories. Your brother’s neighbor’s sister who has been out of work since early 2008. Or the dismal reports on the employment prospects for 2009 college graduates. All of it paints a dismal picture that being unemployed is a horrible, negative experience. Sure, for many it can be. But it’s not always the beginning of the end. Sometimes it’s exactly what you needed (in hindsight) to pursue a better career fit or go back to school like you’d always planned. I like to think of it as a “correction” to the job market, sort of like what’s been happening in the stock market. The good news is that the job market won’t stay like this – it never does.