February 17, 2009
What's your recession stress quotient?
Seems like every week another friend tells me that their employer cut their hours or shrank their pay -- but not their workload. But it's not just staffers facing the tough cuts. Freelance budgets have been shrinking too. Just this morning a client informed me that the next article I write for them would be at a reduced rate, as they're tightening their outsourcing belt.
As a society, we talk a lot about cutting back on personal expenses to deal with lost wages. We gossip about jam-packed job fairs and jobs that attract hundreds upon hundreds of applicants. We give advice on consoling a laid-off friend, finding information on unemployment benefits, and getting help if we can't pay our rent or mortgage. And we grieve about the unthinkable tragedies that a job loss sometimes leads to.
Still, I don't think it's become 100 percent acceptable to acknowledge in mixed company that the fragile economy and terrible job market is scaring the bejesus out of us. It's one thing to admit to close friends and family that you're losing sleep over being on such shaky financial ground (if that's the case). But try talking about how the economy really makes you feel at a social gathering populated by acquaintances and strangers -- even if it is a potluck. Try bringing up your deepest, darkest fears on Facebook.
You'll find some frightened kindred spirits, sure. But you'll also find some folks with their head in the sand (or their hands on the world's largest rainy day fund) who insist that the recession is just another hyped-up media doom-and-gloom story that isn't really affecting anyone outside a couple of small working-class towns that no one's ever heard of. (I invite these naysayers to take a trip through my email inbox where dozens of readers have shared that they're this close to losing their homes in the wake of a layoff.)
I know President Obama signed the stimulus bill today, and I know I've devoted a couple of posts to suggesting people stay positive during the worst economic crisis since... oh, you know the rest. But today I'm feeling appreciative that USA Today recently ran an article and corresponding poll on how people really, truly feel about this recession.
Call me an oversharer, but I think we're better off as a community when people can talk about their biggest, baddest financial fears with their peers. Who knows when a colleague or neighbor may offer a tip on saving a few extra bucks, a link to a helpful Web site, even a job lead. At the very least, we may come to realize that we're not alone in our current financial struggles.
So in the interest of oversharing, I'll go ahead and mention that according to the USA Today poll, I'm a prudent pessimist -- a saver who fears the financial worst. How about you?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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