CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for the ‘Recession’ Category

A Labor Day’s Sojourn from Labor

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

Labor Day, like many public holidays, has largely lost its original meaning and been relegated to the bucket of free days off for many people. I know that often it has been for me. At the same time, this is the second Labor Day in my career that I’ve been contemplating the meaning of the long weekend knowing that I do not have a job to go back to on Tuesday.

For me, Labor Day is a hopeful holiday as a member of the unemployed. In 2002, after nine months of unemployment, I had felt beaten, lost and done for. But that was not true by Labor Day.

On my last unemployed Labor Day, my wife and I were in the process of packing up the few remaining belongings we hadn’t sold and getting ready to drive some 2,500 miles across the USA. It was a journey of faith and hope, moving to a place we didn’t know anyone but believed was the right place for us to be. That faith was rewarded when we arrived in the Twin Cities with both of us finding jobs within days of our arrival.

As I sit pondering my current situation, I find the same hope and faith burning within me. There is a better tomorrow waiting! I know no matter what the challenges that appear to test my belief, this is a new beginning. For those of you who are also struggling right now, take heart! Use today to reinvigorate your search and consider the paths you haven’t sought after. We are not lost. We are not done for.

Today is the end of my first week and I look forward to the new chapter that lies ahead.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Signal to Noise Ratio

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Whether you know it or not, you’re being inundated with information almost every waking second of the day. When you stop to think about it is the information really made up of messages you need to pay attention to or is it mostly just background noise filling in space?

When you hear dire news that the economy is in trouble what is your first reaction? Does your blood pressure rise as anxiety about the future builds? Okay so maybe that’s a bad example to start with, let’s try again…

When a farmer in Kansas hears news about terrorist attacks in Mumbai, terrible as they are, should a they worry about their safety in Kansas? When a sale is on for shoes you just have to have, do you need to run out to the store right then? When you’re asked to produce extra documentation on work that’s already “done”, is the extra documentation really the issue?

The short answer is probably not.

This overloading of less-than-immediate news happens all the time and for many reasons, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Unless the farmer has family in India, the Mumbai attacks don’t represent a need to worry about safety. The shoes, wonderful as they are, will probably be out of fashion in a few months.

There might be a message hidden in the request for extra documentation though, and if you miss it all the documentation in the world won’t solve the problem. The request itself might be noise, but the underlying problem might be something you really have to address.

Engineers have a nice term for this confusion of meaning and information, the signal to noise ratio. What this means is that in order to get a clear message through (the signal), it has to be able to get through a bunch of background interference (noise) which clouds the transmission. In order to understand the message coming through, you have to have a certain signal-to-noise ratio which matches the content you’re trying to receive.

So the question here is, to get back to the slow economy example, what is the message you actually need to pay attention to in all the hype and worry-making? Look closer to home and ask yourself what changes you need to be aware of in your company, your clients, your retirement and your situation. Is your company in trouble or making changes? Does it need to? If when it all boils down, your job is reasonably secure and you can make plans from where you are do you really need to worry?

Being able to filter out the meaning in the information you’re presented isn’t always easy, but knowing that there’s a lot of noise out there it helps to take a moment to ask if you’re getting the signal.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Protecting Your Job in a Recession

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

 A recent Harvard Business Review article (via BNET) lends credit to the well worn concepts of how to make your position secure in an organization. While it’s hard to argue with their recommendations, many are thoughts that appear time and time again and which definitely hold true in any economy.

It’s important to remember that layoffs happen even in good economies, and many of the practices of making yourself appealing as an employee are important whether or not the storms are brewing or the waves crashing over your company. As’s Ruth Morss lays out in her article “Guide to Surviving a Layoff”, there are many opportunities to shore up your position, whether the options make sense for you or not, investing the time to try to avoid the layoff list is well worth your time if you want to stay in your current job.Take Fortune’s “Ask Annie” as Anne Fisher lays out again in “8 ways to recession-proof your job”, your visibility, contributions, cost saving ideas, your network and maintaining a positive attitude (or as she puts it “no whining allowed”)all play a part in making your position more stable.

For a more visually cheery approach, you might want to try Forbes’ article “How to Recession-Proof Your Job” which shares much the same ideas, but with an “in pictures” twist for fun.

Whoever makes the most compelling case, or offers the ideas that fit your situation best, look realistically at where you are, what turn your company’s fortunes are taking and how you can best weather the storm. It may be that your position is already much more secure than you think, and if not, maybe it’s worth showing that you’re engaged, delivering and ready for the challenges ahead.

Got your own suggestions for protecting your job? Share them in the comments.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.