Job search strategies
"There are too many people shopping for too few jobs," moans a young friend laid off nearly a year ago. "I've never had a problem getting a job before," says the human relations specialist.
Unfortunately, her dilemma has plenty of company. Nearly 20 percent of jobless Americans have been out of work for almost 30 weeks, often battling pinched wallets, age discrimination, and depression.
Steps to success
Facing a similar situation? Don't lose hope, urges Joann Lubin, author of the Managing Your Career column for The Wall Street Journal. Smart strategies could revive your job search and boost sagging spirits.
Polish your skills while idle. Your command of technology may be rusty. Don't expect to pick up where you left off. Choose a job based on its potential for advancement rather than starting salary.
Think positive and consider turning a job loss into a career change.
Consider hiring a counselor; visit the National Career Development Association online at www.ncda.org. You can get free access to nationwide listings from newspapers, professional associations, major job boards, and other sources online at www.indeed.com.
If you have an inkling that a layoff is imminent, you'll rest easier if you build up an emergency fund to tide you over for several months. If the layoff was unexpected and you have no cash for the crisis, consider selling stocks in your taxable account to raise money as you need it. This is the rainy day you've been concerned about. But don't raid your retirement savings. And cut back on spending rather than run up credit-card debt.
Jobs for new grads
The sometimes fickle job market has been a boon for recent college grads, however. There's a strong demand for marketing, engineering, and computer science majors, with chemical engineering graduates getting an average 6.2 percent increase to $63,749 from a year ago, the sharpest gain in any category.
Starting salaries, overall, will be up about 4 percent according to Kiplinger.com (go online and search for "Solid Hiring Outlook for Spring Grads" to read the entire story).
Many new graduates will begin with internships that turn into full-time employment.
Aflac, an insurance holding company based in Georgia, has a department whose sole purpose is hiring interns and placing them in the right jobs.
"It's a great job market and college students know it," says Audrey Boone Tillman, an Aflac executive. Companies are finding that recent college grads have more experience with a wider range of new technology than the baby boomers they are replacing.
If you have been out of work for a while, and are nearing your corporate retirement age, take a visit to your human resources department to see what reduced benefits there might be if you quit ahead of schedule, with the financial and emotional support of your spouse.
To calculate your income needs--and keep ahead of inflation--you should figure that inflation will average at least 3 percent annually. Then withdraw an annual amount in the early years of retirement--say, 4 percent of savings-that is enough to meet your income needs but is below the assumed growth rate of investments. That way you won't drain your assets too quickly.
Expenses will run about 75 percent of what they did in your final working years: will your investments generate enough income to fund that spending? Don't leave out big-ticket items that will surface, including replacing your car, large-scale home repairs, and dental work, says financial planner Jonathan Pond (www.jonathanpond.com). Therefore, put off taking Social Security and other retirement benefits until your accounts are big enough to support spending needs.
Be careful not to overestimate the value of any early retirement package. You may want to use a Web-based calculator, such as the free one online at www.analyzenow.com. You'll get information that helps you determine when to begin taking Social Security payments and how much you need to save for retirement.