RELIABLE Economic Forecast, Plus Other Unemployment Advice?
November 2, 2008 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I could use people's advice as to finding out the most likely future of our economy, how to come out of a period of unemployment proud as to how I used my time, and how to best prepare for the worst.

First, I'm worried about how the economy's future will shape both the length of my current job hunt, and the likelihood of a future layoff by my next employer ("last hired, first fired"). But I can't pick out the wisest, nonbiased, most reliable voice — the voice closest to the factual truth — from the roar of the vast amount of media punditry, opinions, and "experts" on the subject. Whose opinion is most reliable about this, why is it the most reliable, and what does he or she forecast? (This was asked here, but was asked pre-bailout; also, not to count unhatched chickens, but I expect experts are now most likely working off of Obama's economic plans when making their predictions.)

Second, how can I use the unexpected recreational time to have a transformative effect on my life? I use "recreational" hesitantly, as I don't intend to be a bum for months on end, but I have a small-to-moderate comfort zone, and even were my job search currently on 100% full force, I nonetheless remember there still being a lot of "downtime" the last time I was looking for work. I'm 34 and in some ways feel my life is quite askew from where it should be at this age. It would be nice to be able to come out of this saying, "You know, being laid off sucked, but damn it, I took the bull by the horns and wrested a hell of a lot of good out of this." I have some ideas already, but I'm wondering what that other people's "hell of a lot of good" might be were it to happen to them.

Third, how do I prepare for the very worst, i.e., having no more money whatsoever? I have no wife or children, and have family I could live with in an adjoining state, but it is a very small town. Are there things I could do now that would be useful in a situation in which I was not homeless, relocated to a rural-suburban area, still unemployed, and economically cleared out? I suppose I'm thinking along the lines of the StealThisWiki kind of advice: pragmatic stuff. Obviously, I hope things never become that bad, and for such a doomsday to occur a lot of unlikely things would all have to go wrong, but it feels like it is a little more possible now than it was in better times, and I'm wondering if I can lessen the blow somehow in some way if it happens.

Oh, also, what was the state of the economy considered to be back in October-November 2005? That was the last time I looked for a job, and I wonder whether I was looking while in a good economy or a bad one.

Finally, not to be crass, but if any of you are in Chicago and hear of a legal secretary position, preferably at a large firm, that pays commensurate with experience, my e-mail address is in my profile. :-)
posted by WCityMike to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A- It won't be that bad. The actual economy is doing just fine. Look, the growth rate for the last quarter was just slightly negative. And that includes a LOT of negative growth in the housing and financial markets. That means that everything else most be doing pretty good to be able to balance it out to break even. Things are bad for a lot of people, but that's how it always is- there's always some sector or area that is having trouble.

B- Education. The way to weather a downturn is to get more education so that when you come out of it, you are more qualified than the rest of the clowns who just sat around.

C- Nobody can predict the future. There is no one, reliable voice because it's reading tea leaves. Anybody can pick some fact and base a "what-if" scenario on it and be correct, IF the world behaves exactly the way they believe. The world doesn't work like that.

D- If it really gets bad, figure out how to survive with nothing. Learn how to cook things you can grow. Learn to grow things.
posted by gjc at 5:56 PM on November 2, 2008

If you are a legal secretary, I actually think you're in great shape. If you're a GOOD legal secretary with relevant experience, all you have to do is get to a large town with a lot of lawyers. However, I don't know what type of experience you have. You may want to research what's most in demand - is it litigation support? matrimonial? corporate? - and try to get transferred there, now.

How good are your software skills? Can you add some microsoft certifications to your resume? Can you take some classes in technologies? What about working as a legal word processor - do you know all those different forms and platforms? Can you get more experience?

What about working as a paralegal? I know the certification course in NYC costs about $1k. But that would add to your bag of tricks if you started it now. It may be less elsewhere. Your firm may have tuition reimbursement. Of course paralegals make less than the secretaries do, but the lines get blurred and may blur more.

Pragmatic stuff: start cutting expenses now. Start paying bills down now, if you have them. You may be in good financial shape now and think, maybe I should get a new car or buy a new couch. Get yourself into a position so that if you did lose your job tomorrow, there's no panic. Cut down on the things you don't use. Take lunch 3x a week. Turn down your thermostat. Sell crap you don't need, and sell it now while people have money and are looking to buy used stuff, instead of selling at a loss and in a panic. Do you live in a place so that if you had to, you could get a roommate? Maybe think about that kind of thing.
posted by micawber at 6:00 PM on November 2, 2008

If you're a legal secretary, I would 100% advise going through a legal recruiter. They are seriously motivated to get you a good position because they get an obscene bonus upon placement. This puts someone on your side during your job hunt and can even get you free resume help.
posted by mynameisluka at 6:08 PM on November 2, 2008

Well, as a woman who intends to reproduce, in a province with an excellent child support policy, if I'm not in school for the duration of an unemployable economic downturn, if the support policies remain consistant, it would be in my best interests to have a baby and devote my full time to parenting. This is not exactly a plan to be a welfare queen, since my place of residence specifically put these social policies in place to increase the birth rate, and with finite childbearing years that overlap my best career building years, I might have to make the trade off of not having both, which is exactly what my province rather I didn't. On the other hand I still have a hell of a lot of maturing to do before I'd be a good mother.
posted by Phalene at 7:40 PM on November 2, 2008

I'd look for a restaurant job and a day job, so at least you have some money coming in (and free food) while you're hunting for the perfect day job. (Then again, I have a second job on top of my day job.)

Useful? It really depends on your goals. I'd probably get some experience I lacked by volunteering.
posted by salvia at 9:48 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Learning something and volunteering are both good. I would recommend taking up running: it's free, local, and gets you out of the house. More importantly, looking for a job is depressing, and running can make you feel better about yourself and life in general.

At least that was helpful for me. Quite literally, YMMV.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:02 PM on November 2, 2008

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