Surviving this (or any) job market

You've made it through the layoffs; now it's time to invest in yourself.

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Don't be afraid to step backward
Don't be afraid to step backward
Karen Dowd, executive director of career services at the University of Denver's business school.
After Betty Boyd Meis, 56, was laid off from a high-level finance job in 2001, she decided to work in nonprofits. She knew she wouldn't be able to match her old pay. But she also learned that her corporate credentials wouldn't give her easy access to top nonprofit jobs.

To prove her commitment to potential employers, she decided she'd take whatever nonprofit work she could get. That meant assuming duties she was wildly overqualified for, such as carrying deposits to the bank. But that work led to her current job as senior vice president of finance and administration at Planned Parenthood of North Texas. "It gave me experience I could sell," she says.

Meis took a risk that wouldn't make sense for everyone. It worked because she had a clear goal in mind, which let her think one or two jobs ahead. Start making a list of companies you'd like to work for or responsibilities you'd like to have. Then research everything you can about them and how you might get there. Don't focus too much on climbing the next obvious rung on the career ladder - after all, those ladders are getting pulled out from under people all the time. "You want to be involved in something that gets your juices flowing," says Karen Dowd, executive director of career services at the University of Denver's business school. "People are attracted to that passion."

Strategy: Accept lower pay if it helps you move your career where you want it to go.

NEXT: Expand your horizons
Last updated February 02 2009: 5:54 AM ET
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