Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

In the two years to the first quarter of 2010 employment fell by 2.1% and the unemployment rate increased by just over 50%, to 8.5% in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) area.

That adds up to 17 million additional unemployed people and of course these figures are not evenly distributed across the OECD area, which includes 34 member countries across the globe, from North and South America to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Currently (December 2010) the unemployment rate in the UK is 7.9% or approximately 2.5 milliion people. These figures, of course, do not include those who are under-employed or in part time working.

Finding a job in an economic downturn when unemployment is high is challenging as the competition is greater so for those who currently have work but fear they may be facing redundancy it makes sense to get some preparation in ahead of time.

Whether you are a

Thinking time is the first step in the campaign. It’s time to list all the skills that make up a part of the current job, particularly anything new that has been learned and to them revise the CV accordingly.

Networking is important to maintain and nourish relationships with friends, family, colleagues and contacts so that you hear of any opportunities that might be coming up, but obviously without jeopardising the current position. It is better to do this while still employed than when people might sense any urgency or desperation.

The importance of online networking is also growing. The website LinkedIn is a kind of social networking site but for business people. It is free and you can list all your professional experience as well as making connections with other people in your own or related industries.

It is also a good time to do the research so that if the worst happens you are prepared with a list of local employers and have studied their websites to identify where you could possibly offer your services and skills. Perhaps also consider talking through options with a careers coach while you can still afford the fees.

It may also be a good time to have a good look at your expenses and try to economise so that the income drop, if it happens, is less of a shock and perhaps also if possible to build up at least three months of reserves for essentials like the mortgage or rent. Not being sure of a roof over your head will add to the pressure when you need to be focused on the main task.

Some employment experts argue that while the skills for many jobs are broadly the same what matters is the individual and how they come across and to stand out it is important to stay calm, positive and convincing. To do that means having confidence in your skills and not exaggerating them in a way that could catch you out.

Finally, some recruiters argue that there are many myths surrounding job hunting that actually are untrue, including that no-one hires anyone aged 55-plus, whereas in fact their experience, work ethic and skill could make them the ideal candidate since it takes less time and therefore cost to train them.

Other recession myths include that “no-one is hiring”, that the internet is the best place for a job search, whereas in fact personal contact is often more successful, that you should expect a salary cut and that a degree and higher qualifications guarantee a job. All these should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Finally, whether you are actually unemployed or are facing redundancy you should try to take care of yourself. Jog hunting and recessions are both stressful. A successful job hunt means taking care that your hard work in preparation does not go to waste and that you are able to be upbeat and positive, which means eating well, getting lots of sleep and allowing yourself to relax a couple of times a week.

It may be tougher for a top PA in London to find a job in times of high unemployment after a recession but there are plenty of tips for improving your chances, starting with preparing ahead of time if you fear your job may be under threat. By Ali Withers.

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