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Recession Proof Your Job

It's easy to feel helpless during the recession. Seeing long lines of jobseekers is depressing. Hearing daily about layoffs and business closings is scary. Cher Murphy, president of Cher Murphy PR, reminds us there are more people working than not, and offers advice on how to feel more in control.

1. Remain noticeably active on the job. Regardless of what type of field you work in, it is important that you let people see that you are busy. If you look like you aren’t doing much, it gives others the idea that you are not needed.    

2. Document your contributions. Keep a file of everything that you do to help the company, no matter how small you may think it is. That information can be quite handy later, if you have to defend your position by explaining your contribution to the company.

3. Help make cuts. Many businesses need to make economic cuts right now. Offer a list of ideas that you think can help your company lower their bottom line. They will appreciate your input and the fact that you care enough to help with this issue.

4. Reduce your overhead. If you own small business, consider taking it home if it can be done there, rather than from a rented space, which could save a great deal of money each month. Also, re-evaluate how you are getting your business name out to the public. Now is the time to utilize public relations, in order to increase brand-name recognition and sales.

5. Don’t complain.  The last thing your employer wants to hear is you whining about taking on additional tasks or having to be more flexible in order to help them stay afloat. Vent your complaints in the car as you head home, rather than to your employer.

6. Improve your skills.  If there is a class, degree, convention, or some other skill-building tool you can undertake or experience, you should do it. It will make you that much more valuable at your current job, and it can help with future ones, as well.

7. Network. While you may have heard it a million times before, it’s true that networking can help you in your career. You never know who is going to be instrumental in helping you when you need it most.

8. Switch careers.  If you are not happy in the field in which you work, you may want to choose a new path – one that is considered recession-proof. According to Kiplinger, those fields include health care, education (e.g., math, science, bilingual education), security, environmental sciences, globalization, and government positions.

9. Polish your resume.  Be sure to keep your resume polished and updated, so that if you need it right away (or someone you network with would like to see it), you have it ready to hand over.

10. Stay optimistic. Attitudes are like colds – they are very contagious. Keeping an optimistic attitude will keep you in much better graces than if you bring others down.

“While there is no absolute way to save someone’s job, there are things people can do to help avoid losing it,” said Murphy. “If people still lose their job after trying these suggestions, at least they can feel they did what they could to try to save it. But they may just be surprised at how far these suggestions can take them.”

Sources: Kiplinger. Recession-Proof Careers; Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary. December 2008

Consumers Union Urges a Tight Leash for Bailout Recipients

Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is urging Congress to put specific regulatory reforms in place that it said would protect taxpayers and consumers from the negative impact of the current economic crisis.

A Consumers Union spokeswoman said the $700 billion Wall Street bailout "does nothing to address the root causes of the current crisis."

"Today's financial mess is the result of bad business decisions on Wall Street and the failure of our regulatory system to rein in bad lending practices and protect consumers," said Pam Banks.

Consumers Union suggests Congress make it illegal to offer loans to consumers who could not demonstrate their ability to pay them back at their peak rate, and also to reward loan brokers who make higher-priced loans. It called for a six to nine-month moratorium  on foreclosures and extra help for homeowners to restructure their loan terms, more oversight on credit card lending and all financial products, and urged Congress not to privatize social security.

The organization also called for higher standards and more transparency for any business benefiting from the bailout or other government support.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

What's in a Name?

Corporate lobbyists often masquerade as consumer advocacy think tanks. Similar front groups surface during election season, so that negative campaign attacks can be launched by hastily thrown together "advocates" with misleading names, such as the Black Republican Freedom Fund and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Think you'll be able to spot a group's true motives by its name? Try your luck at ConsumerReports.org. They put together a quiz to see if you can match the group's goals with its moniker.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Scrooge McDuck Gives an Economics Lesson

Scrooge McDuck gives a lesson in economics in this classic Disney cartoon. The folks at libertarian Web site CampaignForLiberty.Org edited it to create their own message for the Federal Reserve.

Ethanol Driving Up Cost of Food?

The Wall Street Journal and several other media outlets have reported government mandates to increase the use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline are driving up food costs. Not only is ethanol production artificially driving up the price of corn, which is used to make a multitude of other grocery items including pet foods, the newly profitable corn crops are diverting acreage and resources away from other staple food crops.

But the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council maintains oil is driving up the costs of both food and fuel, making it more expensive to ship and produce the everyday items we rely on. It insists ethanol, by providing an alternative to oil-based fuel and energy, is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

What do you think?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

What Ever Happened to Layaway?

I recently overheard a Niagara Falls consumer lamenting the disappearance of layaway at a discount department store.

"Look at all these nice coats," she said, sorting through a rack of winter jackets displayed well before the first flakes of winter had flown. "They really screwed us up when they got rid of layaway."

Looking into her tired eyes, I saw my mom. I wanted to cry.

"I know," I said. "And once you get the money to buy them..."

"They're all gone," she said.

"Yep."

Every June my mom would take my sisters and brothers and me to Hills Department Store to put school clothes on layaway.  All summer we would pay on our account, bringing a big brown box of clothing home just in time for the first days of school. What would we have done without it?

Probably the same thing many others are doing now. Opening store credit cards and racking up more debt. Sure, you get to take the clothes home right away, but you pay a hefty price for it. Department store credit lines have some of the stiffest interest rates and late payment penalties.

With layaway, when you couldn't pay, do you remember what happened? They put your merchandise back on the shelves and refunded your money. But if you don't pay your credit card, you're shackled to a debt that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

How have you gotten on without layaway?

--- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Would You Like Spider Webs With That?

Many genetically engineered animals sold as food will not be labeled as such, according to proposed rules from the Food and Drug Administration.

The Consumers Union, a consumer protection agency, finds the lack of labels "incomprehensible," considering packages of beef, poultry and seafood could be made from animals whose DNA has been altered by animals of an entirely different species.

For example, spider genes have been added to goats, which then produce spider silk in their milk.

"In our view, consumers have a right to know if the ham, bacon or pork chops they are buying come from pigs that have been engineered with mouse genes," said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union.

Do you feel there should be labels on food from genetically altered animals? What else would you like to see listed on food labels? How do you feel about eating altered food?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Waiting for YOUR bailout?

Another day, another corporate bailout?

As strapped consumers watch failing corporations receive billions of dollars in assistance, some are wondering, "Where is MY bailout?"

As people lose their homes in record numbers and are forced to make tough economic decisions, consumers are looking for a similar safety net.

Is one there?

Do you feel the government's decision to act on behalf of companies protects you in the long run?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Going green worth the cost?

Going green is all the rage. Spurred on by the fear of a warming planet, many are changing the way they live and shop in hopes of taking a lighter toll on the planet.

While some go green out of a sense of social responsibility, others are lured by the promise of having more green in their pockets through lower energy bills, more responsible purchasing and tax write-offs.

How about you? Have you gone green? Are you planning to? How did you do it? What made you decide to take the plunge?

Has the investment paid off? Do you have any regrets?

We'd like to hear from you.

--- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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