If this recession were an alien monster from a B-grade ’50s film, job seekers would be hard pressed to locate a superhero that could zap the fiend out of existence. With this down-spiraling economy impacting virtually every industry, including those traditionally deemed recession proof, employees are scrambling to reinvent themselves. Reinvention, however, does not necessarily have to equate to a complete overhaul. Through targeted research of growth sectors (yes, they do exist), a bit of ingenuity, objective assessment of one’s overall strengths in addition to one’s skills, and the know-how to market those, a candidate may successfully recreate himself or herself to secure gainful employment.
Begin your reinvention, if you are a job hunter, by viewing the market landscape from the perspective of the employer. From his point of view, it resembles a battlefield. He must dodge the bombs of cost reduction mandates, the need to maintain the integrity of his product or his service, and the criticality of accomplishing these tasks better and more expediently than his competition. How can you serve as the employer’s convoy as he barrels through the front lines?
Let’s assume, for the purposes of this article, that you are a purchasing professional whose industry is running as dry as a bottle of spring water on the Sahara. If your job entailed investigation and creation of a network of suppliers, particularly those overseas, you have something of value to offer the cost-conscious employer, even one maneuvering in a field different from your own. While other industries are suffering, the home goods market, for instance, is managing to tread the deep end of the pool. Retailers of high-ticket items may be going the way of Levitz, the furniture chain which drowned last year and was never resuscitated, but Internet-based companies featuring home accessories, as well as discounters such as TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Home Goods, are keeping their heads above water.
In the home accessories market, all of these survivors turn a profit on knock-offs. After researching the hot trends and fast-moving products in their industry, they acquire similar but less expensive products outright, or contract to have them manufactured more cheaply. Import companies and manufacturers with extremely diverse product lines, particularly in Asia, have a long history of working with Western buyers to create the poor man’s version of private-label merchandise. Although producers in Eastern Europe are more recent competitors of their Asian counterparts, they too offer significant cost savings and a willingness to work “outside the box.”
If the vendors with which you dealt are located in these two key geographic areas, or even if they are not, you can be an asset to a new employer by redesigning items at a lower cost-to-produce that translates into more competitive retail prices. Investigate some top-selling items and contact your vendors (technology itself is a cost-saver). With your vendor-partners, brainstorm solutions in terms of cheaper or alternative materials and product configurations that respect the originals while delivering notable cost savings. While you’re at it, don’t ignore the over-the-counter cosmetics industry that, in times of economic decline, has always faired well. For the relatively low price of an eye shadow or a lipstick, consumers can get a legal “high” at a time when it seems there is not much else to smile about.
Offer your solutions to the appropriate hiring authorities, and you will have done more than gotten your foot in the door. By presenting yourself as proactive and resourceful, you will communicate your skills and inventiveness as potentially vital components to your future employer.