By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: After losing my job at a major financial institution last year, I have aggressively pursued every lead I can find that fits my career and experience. Five months after I lost my job, my husband lost his job with a company tied to the automotive industry. His nice severance dried up fast. With his good reputation in his industry, we never anticipated that he would not find something quickly -- he's still looking, as am I.

We've taken obvious steps to pull out of this dive: Our two preteen children no longer attend private schools. We own a nice home that we bought at the top of the market a few years back but can't sell, making us geographically tied to where we live. And we are surviving off our retirement nest egg.

Yes, we've read job-hunting books and even engaged career coaches. They've been great for lifting our spirits -- but at the end of the day we need interviews and job offers! The bottom line is that we seem to be stuck in careers we can't restart and lives that are unraveling. In short, we're struggling, increasingly desperate and going under. What now?

DISCLOSURE: This letter is not from a specific reader but a compilation of the troubling kinds of questions streaming to this column and to career advisers everywhere.

Americans are wading through a job market where seekers now outnumber published openings six to one -- a record ratio -- as 14.5 million unemployed people compete for 2.4 million jobs. News stories of middle-class families losing everything have become all too common. Many companies, nervous about growth prospects in the foreseeable future, are holding back on hiring.

Are better times just around the corner? A speedy improvement in the job market is unlikely. Most economists estimate that, at best, prospects will remain yucky for several years.

So rather than continue along the road that for you has led to nowhere, update your attitude: Give serious consideration to re-evaluating your immediate destination. For decades, conventional wisdom has championed the idea of choosing work you'd do for nothing. But when your world goes upside down and the perfect job remains out of reach, guerilla-search for the next-best job you can get quickly.

You say you've read books that haven't worked for you. I don't think it's advice from those books or career coaches that's threatening you with financial ruin, but more likely penalties inflicted by the gutted job market. That's why I suggest you read an exceptional new book that heralds unconventional advice on swiftly finding employment close to home.

"The Quick 30/30 Job Solution: Smart Job Search Tips for Surviving Today's New Economy" by Neil P. McNulty and Ronald L. Krannich ( discusses the concept of seeking a good, if not perfect, lifeboat job to survive in today's challenging economy.

A lifeboat job is (1) within 30 miles of your present residence and can be landed in a 30-day time span, (2) pays at least 70 percent of your previous salary, (3) covers your mortgage, and (4) meets your basic needs.

McNulty heads the McNulty Management Group, a staffing and placement firm that pioneered the "30/30 job search" concept and program. Krannich is one of America's leading career experts and authors. I respect the book's message so much that I wrote its foreword, quoting McNulty about what future potential employers will think if you accept a lifeboat job that obviously isn't perfect for you:

"They will think that you were a lot smarter than the guy who bit off his nose to spite his face because he would not settle for less than an ideal position, resulting in a year or more of unemployment, a choice often followed by a shambles of personal finances."

You played by the old rules and lost ground. Do what you need to do right now to rewrite the rules in your favor: Row, row, row your boat until the perfect job comes powering around the bend.


Saving Yourself When Out of Work, Out of Luck| Jobs & Careers

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