Careers in Recession

These days it is not unusual for people to be stressed and anxious about their future career prospects. Many of the people I meet on a daily basis feel trapped in unemployment and powerless to get ahead. Coupled with this, the media is constantly bombarding us with negative messages about recession, cutbacks, redundancies and a lack of jobs.

In light of this, is it any wonder that people are stressed and overwhelmed and unsure about making career decisions? They wonder whether there will be a job at the end of their course. If there is a job for them, they wonder will it be worth the effort they put into retraining, returning to education and changing direction.

It is not easy to stay positive and often people lose sight of their powerful experience to date, skills learnt on the job or from other areas in their life. They over-identify with joblessness and lose sight of their potential and previous experience. In doing this, they hand their power over to the government, the economy and even TV stations. In essence, they end up being the passenger instead of the driver of their hard-won lives. They relinquish control to others.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey talks about the things we can control or ‘our circle of influence’; and the things we cannot control or ‘our circle of concern’.  I recently heard Jim McGuinness – Manager of the All-Ireland winning Donegal team – adopt a similar approach. In the team’s ‘circle of influence’, he placed the team’s fitness levels, a positive mental attitude and their health. These were things that could be controlled. On the other hand, while the weather, wind direction and some of the media’s opinions of his team were a concern to Jim, these were things that were beyond his influence and control.

When we consider our careers, it is better to focus on what we can control rather than what we can’t. We can channel our time and energy into activities that will reap rewards. We can put time into cultivating a positive mental attitude. We can upskill, retrain; improve our numeric skills, verbal skills or IT Skills. By volunteering or getting work experience we can build up our transferable skills or get a foot in the door of a potential employer. When thinking of transferable skills we can choose to improve an area.  This is especially true of transferable skills. Recently, I stepped into a leadership role in Lions and it helped my leadership skills immensely. Through the role I learnt to chair meetings and help organise fundraisers. Perhaps, you too could step up in your local P.T.A, GAA club or even in the Resident’s Committee.

Consider the following questions:

  • Could you network more? Could you let people know what you are looking for?
  • Could you talk to a Careers Counsellor about ways to maximise your opportunities in the future?
  • Could you look beyond the newspapers and go to employment fairs, expos, professional organisations or any gathering for job leads?
  • Could you practice your interview skills, join a Job Club, or even ask for feedback at your next interview?
  • Could you consult websites such as or or use Google to sharpen your CV?
  • Could you take responsibility for your own thinking and build in healthier daily habits that will lead to greater success in your career?

We all have a choice. We can either adopt a passive, fatalistic response to the downturn or to take steps to ensure that we do all that we can to make the best of what we can control, for now and for our futures!

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