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Survivor: Job Market

UCLA alumna Judy Hernandez offers tips to hold on in the marketplace.

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By Judy Hernandez '90

Published Apr 1, 2009 9:00 AM


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Bruin Judy Hernandez offers expert tips for handling the economic crisis.

As we plunge deeper into the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, knowing how to weather being laid off or downsized and how to revive a career is even more critical than usual, particularly for young professionals. UCLA alumna Judy Hernandez, a sought-after lecturer and consultant on career planning and former director of community at Monster.com, can help you get through it. Hernandez, a past president of the New York Bruins alumni club, offers pointers on how young professionals can hold on — and even rise up — in the marketplace.

Be a goaltender

What is your goal? This is one thing I can't stress enough. I know not everyone is goal-driven, but when it comes to job search and career change, not much can replace it. I've often seen this story referred to in workshops on goal-setting, and I believe the point is illustrated well:

A well-known American long-distance swimmer, Florence Chadwick, attempted to swim 21 miles across the Catalina Channel, from Catalina Island to Point Vicente, on July 4, 1952. After nearly 16 hours of swimming, she was cramping up and couldn't see because of a thick layer of fog. She felt that she couldn't go on and asked to be taken out of the water. She'd had less than a mile to go. Her comment was, "If I could have seen land, I know I could have made it."

If her goal was in sight, she could have made it. Is your goal in sight?

Learn to say no

In addition to being a Bruin, I am a native New Yorker, and after graduation I wanted to get back home. Upon arrival in New York, I decided to combine my search for work with my graduate school aspirations. I knew that even with a degree from UCLA in psychology and history, I would require additional education to point my career path in the right direction. My most specific requirement was that it didn't matter if I worked at a university or at a company, but that one of the benefits of my job had to be a tuition reimbursement benefit.

Career Building

Could you use a comprehensive online job search tool? A critique of your résumé? How about online career advice, a virtual career-counseling session and how and when to find career fairs on campus? For an edge in today's job markeet, there's no better resource than UCLA's many career services for alumni. Visit the career center's alumni site for a complete listing of services.

I went to employment and temporary agencies and did research about both higher education institutions and companies that had that benefit. I didn't even consider going on an interview if I knew the benefit wasn't included. If it was unclear, I always asked. It was my most important deal-breaker. I had no problem saying no if they didn't have the benefit.

It is sometimes just as powerful to be confident in saying "No," as having the opportunity to say "Yes." Remember that just getting an offer of a job doesn't mean it's the job for you. And that's true even in a recession.

Redefine "career"

When I first started working, I believed that a career should be defined as a specific profession — doctor, lawyer, etc. Now I think that a career is the sum of the education, work and volunteer experiences you've had from whenever you began working to wherever you are now. When I worked at Monster.com, we referred to careers around the office as "birth to earth."

I've had 14 jobs, from working in a Dairy Queen in San Diego to being a file clerk, assistant cook, recruitment coordinator, teacher's aide, community producer at iVillage.com, director of community at Monster.com and adjunct professor at New York University. And that's just the actual paying jobs. Who would have thought that in my current job, I'd refer to my experience volunteering with Girl Scouts back in college or working at UCLA UniCamp? But I do.

Build your résumé creatively

Experiences that never made it to the résumé offer new and stronger ways to present a job seeker. In general, we have been trained to stress parts of a job on our résumé that were important to the employer at the time we have a job.

I have to remind job seekers frequently that what was important to an employer years ago won't matter to the next employer. What did you get out of the job? How did you excel? What can you offer the new employer that they need? (A great way to show this is to use key words from the job description in your résumé.)

Another great tactic is to always be on the lookout on your job for projects or assignments that add something that you want on your résumé. Volunteering for projects not only builds your résumé, it also makes you look good to the boss.

Protect your job

Volunteering is one way to protect your job. You also can take advantage of any training offered by your employer. You can make sure to meet — and hopefully exceed — any established job performance goals (and if you don't have them, talk with your boss about making some). Of course, even if you do these things, you can't count on them totally protecting your job. In volatile times, it may not even be possible. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Bounce back

I've been laid off a couple times in my career, so I know that it can get you down. I found that once I concentrated on networking with my former colleagues and fellow alumni, eventually I'd get to where I wanted to be. Sometimes it takes time to get back on your feet, but if you are prepared, it'll be easier. Here are some tips:

• Keep a schedule as if you were still working. It's very easy to find yourself in your sweats in front of the TV instead of job-seeking.
• Try to keep yourself doing some kind of work. My adjunct position was great in this capacity.
• Always work with your network. This has been covered before, so I won't dwell on it. Phone or e-mail someone every day. Just connecting keeps spirits up.

Lighten the load

There is a statue of Atlas in midtown Manhattan that I often think of when talking with my job search and career counseling clients. When you need to make a career change, it often feels like you're bearing the weight of the world upon your shoulders. There are so many expectations, your own and those of your family. I hear many questions about how a specific choice may affect someone's career, or even how their life will turn out in the long term. Additionally, we're in a recession. But for goodness' sake, don't get down on yourself. Remember Atlas!

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