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Money and Main Street

Recession-proofing your career

As a recruiter in an industry that was drying up, James Donato knew it was time to sink or swim.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

James Donato with his fiancee Denise.
In the past six months, how often have you looked at your 401(k) and other investment balances?
  • Every day
  • Once a week
  • Every month or so
  • I can't bear to look

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Holding on to your job can get pretty tough when your industry is crumbling.

Just ask James Donato. After a stint in the mortgage business followed by a job recruiting for a temp agency, Donato, 31, knew it was time to find something with some long-term potential.

"I wanted to find a position in an industry that was growing and offered tremendous career growth," Donato said.

So, in September Donato started applying to jobs -- lots of them. "I was all over the place," he said. He applied to over 200 openings near his home in Cherry Hill, N.J., including a lot of sales positions.

"Either I never heard back from people or they would tell me the jobs were no longer available because of a hiring freeze," he said.

That's when he decided it was time to re-evaluate his job hunt. Donato focused on his skills and pinpointed an industry that was still hiring -- despite the recession.

"I knew about recruiting and with healthcare being a growing business, why not put two and two together?"

Even in the midst of the recession, employment in healthcare grew by 30,400 jobs in February. Over the past 12 months, healthcare has added 413,200 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

It wasn't long before Donato was offered a job with a home healthcare company recruiting for nurses. He started on Monday.

Although the job pays about 15% less than he was making before, Donato says the job security is invaluable. Plus, he used the pay cut as impetus to retool his personal finances. "I eliminated all credit card debt and paid off my car loan," he said.

Now Donato and his fiancée are planning for a wedding and honeymoon in Mexico in October and paying for it all upfront. He's already secured the time off with his new employer. "That's one of the first things I told them," he said.

Switching gears

Our panel of career coaches agree that the best thing Donato did when his job search stalled was take a step back and decide what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go.

"Honing in on his skills and targeting a particular industry was one of the best things he could have done for himself," said Dan King, Principal of Career Planning and Management Inc. in Boston.

Once he identified the skills that were transferable, he could make the leap into another industry with more hiring potential, which is something other job seekers should consider, the employment experts said.

"I'm convinced that almost anyone can translate their skills from one industry to another," said Gerry Crispin, co-owner of Careerxroads, a consulting firm based in New Jersey.

But that's easier for some than others, King noted. "Some functions, like recruiting, marketing and finance, exist in a lot of different types of industries," other jobs, like electrical engineering and medical technicians are less transferable, he said.

Crispin encourages all job seekers to examine other industries and other regions in their search, particularly during a recession.

"This might be a great opportunity to do that," he said.

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