There's been much talk lately that the recession is over, or, at the very least, turning around. Our economy added 290,000 jobs in April, the biggest monthly increase in about four years.
But what if you're not doing as well, personally, as forecasters say the economy is as a whole? What if you're stuck in an industry, a job or a home that hasn't turned the corner? Then it's time to do two things. First, figure out what's happening in your microeconomy; and second, strategize to move forward. Here are a few suggestions.
If it's your career. The recession changed our economy forever, and some industries are simply not going to bounce back. If you've hit a brick wall, do a little research to see if it's you or the industry. Industry publications and trade associations are great for this. If you decide it's time to jump ship, take some time to think about how your skills could translate into areas that are hiring, like health care, technology and government. To help you out, Laurence Shatkin, author of 200 Best Jobs for Renewing America, offers this exercise: Divide a paper into three columns. In the first, make a list of any worklike activities you've done (not only paid work, but also volunteer positions and work you do at home). Then, in the next column, get specific about the tasks you need to do to accomplish each of these things. The final column is for the skills you used for those tasks. "So if you organized a fundraising drive for charity, you had to make phone calls, write letters, keep records of the money you were raising. And to do all of those things, you needed interpersonal, managerial and mathematical skills," Shatkin said. You'll end up with a nice list of skills you can use on your resume and in job interviews.
If it's your location. This is likely the toughest obstacle to tackle, but it also tends to be the root of many problems. If you can't afford your monthly expenses, it may be because you've chosen to live in an area that is simply too expensive, or where the jobs have vanished. If you're unemployed, your industry may still be hiring, just not where you live. My advice is to weigh the pros and cons of moving and staying put, but expand to considerations beyond your career. If you move, will you be able to sell your home? Check out the housing market in your area, talk to a real estate agent and drive around the neighborhood to see how other homes are faring. Do you have other ties to your community, like family, friends, your children's schools?
If you do decide that you need to move, don't lay down roots in your new location immediately. Rent a home for a while and give yourself some time to feel it out. "That way, it's not a permanent thing," said Jill Keto, author of Don't Get Caught With Your Skirt Down: A Practical Girl's Recession Guide.
If it's your house. The housing crisis, in large part, started because people were purchasing homes they couldn't afford. Lenders, at least in years past, wanted to give big loans, and too many people took advantage of that without thinking about the consequences and the monthly bill that followed. If you're what Keto calls a "prisoner in your home" - because the monthly payments are swallowing all of your other living expenses, and you simply can't keep up - then it's time to move on. If you haven't put it on the market yet, do it now, even if it's your dream home. You'll sleep easier when you're living within your means. If you're struggling, your options are more limited. Talk to a Housing and Urban Development Department-certified housing counselor (you can find one on hud.gov and the service is free) about your options.