7 Ways the Sequester Affects Your Job Search

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: March 13, 2013

The Sequester, Job Search, and You

A recent Gallup poll states 51% of Americans don’t know enough about the sequester to judge if it’s a good or bad thing for the economy or for themselves personally. I tend to take a more negative view. As a layperson, and a veteran resume writer, I hear from many people who feel the effects of the sequester and believe it’s a bad thing, even if those changes have not already taken place. It’s like waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop: You know something bad is about to happen, you just don’t know when.

This article spells out in layperson’s terms what the sequester actually is and how it affects you as a job seeker.

Political Gridlock

By definition, the sequester is a series of automatic spending cuts by the federal government that take place across the board. Some cuts will be to the military and defense, while some will be for "discretionary" or social programs such as Medicaid and Social Security. These cuts are designed to reign in the ballooning federal deficit (now at approximately $16 trillion).

The problem: Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on how to reduce the deficit. Ironically, the sequester was never supposed to happen. President Obama signed it into law under the guise that the cuts would be so painful and catastrophic that Congress would never let it happen.

So much for good planning.

See-saw Effect

These conflicting ideas of how to control and reduce the deficit have kept the American government operating on a “crisis-by-crisis” basis for a while now. It has made the best of us nervous and even those of us employed in "good" jobs worried about the see-saw effect, plus the uncertainty in governmental priorities and diligently wondering what it will take to finally get the United States on a solid road to financial recovery.

Well, you can’t control politics and you certainly can’t control the economy, but we feel there are things you can do to maintain your sanity in an insecure job hunter’s market.

7. Stay Focused

I know it's difficult and easier said than done in the age of the 24/7 news cycle, but do your best to tune out all the negatives. After a while, it just all seems to blend in to the background, and pretty soon you just feel it’s all bad and the tendency to fall into a state of hopelessness increases.

Stay focused. Obviously you should remain aware of the facts regarding the economy, the job market and factors affecting it, but remain focused on your job search even more so.

6. Have a Plan

It seems obvious, but nothing beats the job search blues when dark clouds are all around you like having a job search plan.

Know what types of jobs you’re going for. Are you in marketing or sales? Technology or business? Know who you are in relation to the jobs that are out there. Know your specific job titles and the industries that work well for you. It's difficult to get a job in normal circumstances, but when the country is mired in political and economic turmoil your plan is your roadmap -- and it's more important than ever.

5. Stick With It

It’s so easy to get derailed when it seems like everyone you know is facing either a job loss or a reduction in hours. Be the example and stick with your plan. I believe as a job seeker, that if you’re not working, your full-time job, barring other circumstances, should be looking for work. That means “doing the doings.” The little things that we sometimes want to forget because times get hard and it gets discouraging.

To help you out: Make a schedule of all the employers you’re supposed to follow up on each day. Make a list of promising opportunities that you see online and apply for them right away (within 24 hours if possible). Follow up appropriately after interviews to make sure you stand out in the right person’s mind. It’s these little things that will make the difference. It gives you accountability.

4. Be Prepared

If you’re a federal worker, prepare for possible furlough days. They are scheduled to happen in the upcoming months, but make a plan now.

That means, for example, rather than stay home on furlough days, use that time to actually go for interviews, rewrite that resume or improve your computer skills (especially if you’re a worker over 50 or someone who isn’t comfortable with technology that’s commonly used in your field). Don't think of it change, think of it as career evolution.

3. Keep Learning

As this economy switches from an information age to a knowledge-based workplace, keep your skills fresh. That means taking that class you might have been putting off, learning that new skill that all the whipper-snappers in your industry know.

If you’re stuck on how to get there, here’s a link to some free classes you can take at the world’s largest and best universities for free.

2. Create/Use Your Support Network

This is perhaps the best advice available to you to get ahead in this economy.

Use the power of the network. Need babysitting on Thursday in order to go job hunting? Ask a trusted friend, family member or neighbor. Car in disrepair and need to get to work on time? Find folks in your neighborhood or from your job with whom you can carpool and save on gas and expenses together. Simply put, trade favors and services with people you know and trust to make the best of limited resources. Whatever you lack, find others to fill in the gap so you can give and get what you need to make your income stretch.

Besides being a creative and wise way to handle finances and life’s challenges, it’s also an excellent way to make potential job contacts during tough times.

1. Look for "Hot Jobs"

Research industries that are actually hiring and see how you can transfer your skills there if need be. Industries such as “sin” jobs (alcohol, tobacco, gambling), entertainment, DIY (think Home Depot), education, certain areas of healthcare and anything that takes advantage of the economy, such as pawn/loan/consignment will often have more openings than others during economic downturns.

Let Salary.com Help You

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but by keeping your mind focused on the essentials and the things you can control, you’ll find you’ll have more presence and peace of mind to weather the current storm and continue forward as you reach toward your job search goals. And once you've got an offer,  Salary.com can help even further.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.