Friday, September 16, 2011

The Quiet Army of the Professional-Unemployed

It's not a problem that tends to be discussed in polite circles. But I am going to do it anyway. It's the new Quiet Army of people who used to have good jobs in the public and voluntary sectors who are not working.

These are not people who declare themselves out of work and go down the Job Centre. Nor are they the 'usual suspects' - the drongos who organisations tend to jettison early in a recession.

No, these are people of quality who used to be running things and who have great track-records. The recession is now eating into new territory - and nobody is safe.

How do I know? As a firm with a consulting offer, Stepping Out have experienced a massive spike in people who, for one reason or another, are available for freelance work. I'm talking about emails every couple of days.

Although people we hear fro are really impressive, we just don't have the volume of work to increase our pool just now. But what hits me is just how good many of these people are - they are not people who you'd expect to be prospecting for roles.

This is, of course, only the beginning. We are seeing a structural downsizing of both the state and voluntary sector. The gently rising curve of 2001-10 will, over the next two years, steeply plummet, leaving tens of thousands of people out of jobs. My advice to people in this position is threefold.

One is to consider switching sectors. Although the private sector isn't exactly booming, these firms are still hiring and spending.

Another is to think about downsizing or interim work. There isn't a massive market for senior third sector managers who earn 50k. There are thousands more jobs one layer down where there is a dearth of good people. Being in work is always better than being out of work - and allows a climb-back at some stage.

Finally, I advise people who are really capable to think about setting up in business themselves. It's extremely hard, especially at the moment, but if you can get through the first year, you're probably going to be OK. The rate at which organisations are shedding core people is creating some clear deficits in capabilites which have to be bought-in short-term. If you can define your focus, deal with the knock-backs and early solitude and create happy clients, it's likely that you'll emerge with a business on the other side.

I am considering a blog on how to set up a viable consulting business - but that would perhaps be shooting myself in the foot (which of course I am very good at doing). Another day!


John Ryan said...

Or why not try a short piece of volunteering for small charity such as Oxford House? We could really do with your brilliant skills. Def helps small orgs like us.

Jonathan Flowers said...

I see this a bit too, in my line of work. And would emphasise the point that there are genuinely very good people made redundant - which means that for employers under pressure they are immediately available.

I am still hearing some "if they were made redundant they can't be any good" stigma, and resist it when I hear it. This sort of view needs to be expressed.