The Macro and Micro Economics of the Job Search (North Carolina Edition)

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Perhaps the most quoted authority on the North Carolina economy is Dr. Michael L. Walden, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University. I have turned to his research, information and published material as I have tried to understand and focused my efforts on assisting people through the career transition. Many people we work with seem to feel like a statistic to the companies that have laid them off so macro-economic numbers become a depressing barometer for most in career transition. I can tell you this. The job market seems a whole lot better to me than it did in 2008 through 2010.

But when you are knee deep in sending out resumes behind your computer, not getting calls for interviews and not receiving the kind of attention you had throughout your career which was mostly over $100K per year compensation for many years, statistics can be a source of frustration. As I tell many of my clients we deal and work with people in the micro economy – theirs. Hiring, layoffs, recessions and depressions, monetary policy, manufacturing data, and Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers seem to go out the door and just frustrate. But what can even some of the most frustrated job seekers learn from macro numbers and trends. At least in this report by Dr. Walden, I feel that the general rough ride moves upward toward a more positive picture, that general conditions seem to be improving even if they aren’t for you.

As many people tell me a recession is when your neighbor loses his or her job and a depression is when you lose yours. It can fall on deaf ears to say that a career transition can be a positive time for some people but here are some of my unscientific and anecdotal reasons why your not a statistic and why I feel this time of economic trends can go in your favor. One of my clients, after receiving 0 call backs and responses from some close friends of his who were “supposed to help me” with a connection to a company said this to me last week that made all the difference.

He stopped in the office and said this: “John, I have to tell you that I thought I was a compassionate guy but working through this ego beating career transition has actually been good for me. I can truly say that I have learned to be more compassionate about people, their financial situations and their families then I ever have been.” I can’t really measure compassion but that “progress” to me is true progress. This person is a top account manager who happens to be in between opportunities. People that realize that career transition can be a time for spiritual and emotional growth even if it is not a time of financial growth.

Another client said to me not 30 days ago just before accepting his new executive position: “I felt like I lost a lot by losing my job or being let go. But over the last few months I gained a perspective I didn’t have before.  I improved my communication skills and had to create a new network that I built, that I earned. I didn’t count on my job or my boss to do it. I did it…with help of course. I volunteered really for the first time. I encouraged and helped others. I got closer to my family. That has changed me for the better. The whole thing turned from me to others to how I can be a blessing to those in greater need than me. That attitude had a lot to do with me getting hired. Can you believe it? I do.”

Another client said this: “I should be glad I lost my job. Really that’s how I feel. I don’t care about being a statistic. Being laid off allowed me to spend the last three months with my ailing father. He told me he loved me for the first time. I was able to care for him and love on the tough guy, forgiving him for some things that I harbored when I was growing up. He talked to me and passed away with all his immediate family close to him. Priceless. Yes, I transitioned and I am happy about it but I gained something more during this time and I am glad I had it.”

This past week, the Triangle Executive Careers Group meetup heard the very latest statistics, insights and employment trends in North Carolina from Dr. Michael Walden, author of North Carolina and the Connected Age among many other publications. He spoke about the economic outlook and the question underneath the talk focused on whether we are moving ahead or not. Is unemployment on the march down and are jobs on the way up. Although anybody can manipulate numbers the clear indication is that jobs are coming back. Looking at January 2008 until May 2012 nationally the “job market” according to Dr. Walden is “almost half way back.” Trends in manufacturing, production an exports demonstrated by his graphics and many examples show the underlying reasons why jobs seem to be on the comeback trail. What’s the bottom line? Walden feels that the recovery may be a bit tenuous and that we really won’t have true recovery until long-term deficit issues are handled and until the residential real estate market makes a very strong comeback. For North Carolina, the general economy has recovered better than the national average especially in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro.

In North Carolina one of our finest economic minds resides and is employed by one of our great universities. But if you are in the smaller towns in North Carolina the statistics can be tougher; it’s simply harder to see the growth. No matter where you live or what your professional or personal circumstance say – statistics and insights matter. Dr. Walden’s insights matter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics information paints a picture too of our current situation and our future. The number of unemployed are out there and the number of employed are worked harder than ever. But as you change your career, transition, advance or recover take time to look at the good things you can do and the positive change you can create through this or any other career or work life adversity. Start adding up the little blessings and counting those instead of the months unemployed. Start counting your blessings and charting the relationships you’re building. Then you can use powerful economic insights to note general trends while focusing on the micro economics of what’s really important.