After layoff, how to compete against thousands

News of layoffs is happening daily, with the latest being Citigroup announcing 53,000 more job cuts and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. saying it will lay off thousands more. They join the 10.1 million Americans already unemployed, a 6.5% unemployment rate. At least they're getting a little notice before Christmas arrives.

Even if they saw it coming, getting laid off is a jolt. It not only means losing an income, but can also be at least a temporary loss of self-esteem. I was laid off on June 27 at a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area -- a paper where I had been an editor for 13 years, so I know first-hand what it's like to lose a job. It was the first time in my career that I had been without work.

While the shock and sleepless nights ended after a few weeks, it took a little longer for the sick feeling in my gut to go away. It was the feeling and constant worry about how to pay the bills and ensure my family can stay afloat and in our home. Some days I still have those fears, although a few part-time jobs have helped ease my mind as I look for full-time work.

As newspapers across the country cut jobs and get rid of some of their best talent, I worried that I'd be competing with many of my former colleagues for jobs in the same areas. While few newspapers are hiring, there are plenty of other areas where companies need such skills, such as in corporate communications, writing for Web sites and advertising agencies. It almost makes you feel like you're running in quicksand because so many other people in your field are competing for the same jobs, and the nationwide unemployment rate is so high.

What I've tried to do to get out of that rut is to keep busy networking, volunteering, working part-time and doing whatever I can to continue using my writing and editing skills so I can show potential employers that I'm the best person for the job.

I used to spend hours at the computer applying online for jobs, and so far that hasn't worked. But getting out and meeting people, even for informational interviews, keeps my mind more engaged and hopefully gives me a better chance at finding a job than I would at home in front of a computer. By the time a job opening gets online, thousands of people will see it and apply. I'm trying to find a way to stand out from the crowd, no matter how big and skilled it may be.

In one of the first job interviews I had after being laid off, there was a sign-in sheet for people entering the company's offices. As I was leaving and signing out, I noticed under my name the name of a woman I used to work with. She still worked at the paper, and was interviewing for the same job I was. I didn't run into her there, and was glad I didn't, but for weeks I worried that she would get the job ahead of me even though I had more experience than her. Neither of us got the job, which I think remains unfilled from seeing it advertised on job hunt Web sites. But since then, I've come around to thinking that if she did get the job over me, I'd feel happy for her because she found a job she wanted, and not upset with myself for not getting the job. Something in the back of my mind tells me that it wasn't meant for me and that the job I'm supposed to be in will happen when I do all I can to make it so.

To the newly unemployed, I recommend that they not think they're competing against others in their field for jobs, but that they should use this time to improve their skills and expand the fields they can work in. For me, newspapers are probably out of the question, but I'm doing all I can in other areas (writing online, for example) to increase the number of areas where I can work full-time again. I expect the world can still use another writer and communicator.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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