Job Search: It's a Jungle Out There.

by Regan McMahon


Back when I had a full-time job, I remember watching people on the TV news taking about how long they’d been out of work. Top Silicon Valley executives, experienced engineers, municipal water district employees, teachers and bricklayers would preface their remarks with “I’ve been out of work six months” or “It’s been 18 months” or “I haven’t been able to find anything in almost a year.” I’d hear that and think they mustn’t be trying very hard.


Last fall, when I wrestled with the decision to take the voluntary buyout my offered by the newspaper where I had been an editor, book critic and feature writer for many years, I figured that the severance lump sum and unemployment checks would carry me through for almost a year, and there was no way it would take me that long to find a job so I’d make a tidy profit. I’m a hustler, used to taking on freelance work above and beyond my day job. I’m an optimist, too. I knew I would tackle this challenge the way I tackle a Page One story: with in-depth research, intense focus and indefatigable energy. I’m a go-getter who would just go out and get a new job.


However, as I detailed in my series of Off Ramp posts about taking the buyout and the emotional aftermath of the decision, when I took my leap I landed in the tightest job market since the Great Depression. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t only the economy that was in trouble, my entire industry was on the ropes. I was bombarded with virtually daily news stories—in my own paper and on news and media websites I subscribe to or browse—about the death of newspapers and the shrinking magazine market, with young upstarts and media heavyweights alike outdoing each other to declare the cause of print journalism’s demise, naming and blaming those responsible.


So I got a double dose of bad news each day when I logged onto my computer: finding nothing in the barren wasteland of the job boards (Craigslist, Monster, CareerBuilder plus all the journalism job sites) and being hit with incessant obituaries of my profession itself. And it wasn’t just print publications that were hurting. Websites—where I figured my future lay—were cutting jobs, too.


“Oh, the skills you have are easily translatable,” friends would tell me. “So many people don’t have good writing and communication skills. But you’re both a writer and an editor. That makes you really valuable.”