Finding the Recession's Upside

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The financial sector blowup and recession have soured the near-term career outlook for a great many professionals. But if you're any good, you know what to do when life gives you lemons. Here are some hints for squeezing lemonade, courtesy of placement agent Allison Hemming.

Hemming runs The Hired Guns, a firm that helps employers connect with independent professionals seeking project work. In an interview with the Manhattan daily paper, amNewYork, she cites several "hidden perks" of the recession.

- The unemployed, freed from day-jobs, have more time to work on projects they're most passionate about and that showcase skills they most long to utilize.

- Shrinking staffs often mean employers have more freelance work to parcel out among independent contractors.

- Unemployment makes a person more self-reliant - as in, "opportunistic and pro-active."

- As reliance on contract work expands, Hemming sees a bump in demand for project management skills, to supervise the work of all those outside contractors.

If You're Still Employed

For shell-shocked survivors of layoffs, having former colleagues' responsibilities dumped on your back isn't fun, but it can broaden your skills palette and thus make you more marketable. "You'll be much more marketable and hirable in the future, and likely leapfrog levels," Hemming says.

Your ideas for improving the business may be heard for a change, and you're also more likely to get the credit.

Finally, Hemming advises leveraging your current contributions by telling your boss you're patient, but expect to be rewarded "when we get out of the recession." And if asking for a raise would sound quixotic now, the article notes, "Something you can ask for that's free is job-title improvement."

We're not so sure about that last point. Getting a title in lieu of a raise can be a trap. And pressing for a raise, even at an unspecified future time, could backfire.

Still, once your employer starts to see green shoots, their focus will subtly - or not so subtly - swing from cost control to retaining the most productive team members. At that point, you'll be a step ahead if the boss already has been disabused of the notion that he can take your loyalty for granted.

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