The Blog

Downturns: All Negative?

Is the rise in unemployment always as negative as it's portrayed in the media? In other words, is unemployment a threat or an opportunity?

I was reading an article towards the end of 2011 which reported that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) had suggested that unemployment would rise in 2012. As someone who is set to graduate in July (fingers crossed!), I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't worried about my job prospects when I leave De Montfort University (DMU), which is probably why I am trying to get as much experience as I possibly can whilst I'm still there. However, is the rise in unemployment always as negative as it's portrayed in the media? In other words, is unemployment a threat or an opportunity?

During one of my final-year lectures, the lecturer said that the number of start-ups tends to increase during an economic downturn. General Motors, AT&T, Disney and MTV are all examples of companies that were founded during recessions. In addition, a study conducted in 2009 found that more than half of all Fortune 500 companies got a kick-start during a downturn. So, whilst a recession can be detrimental to businesses (you only have to look at what's happening to our High Streets to see how true this is), it can also give people the motivation they need to venture out on their own. You see, when money is tight and an increasing number of people start being made redundant or businesses fail to see their contracts renewed, people start examining alternative options that are suddenly more attractive to them.

For example, my friend, Kunal Gandhi set up his business 'Social Axis' when his contract came to an end at the place where he previously worked. Having a vast amount of experience in doing what his business now offers, he is someone who has successfully managed to turn a negative (job loss) into a positive (new business).

In addition, a recent study by Robert Fairlie found that the number of people who started a business is approximately half as high in areas where unemployment is in double digits than in those where it is under 2%. Therefore, high unemployment can encourage people to be more creative and entrepreneurial when considering their next career move.

The articulation in the media about the constant increases in unemployment has influenced my own behaviour. As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, during my first year I was all about my work. However, during my second and third year I have realised the importance of developing my employability skills as well doing well academically. Ultimately, I want to graduate with a great academic record and a wealth of employability skills, not one or the other.

Whilst these are worrying times for a whole range of people, not just for recent graduates, I firmly believe that most threats or problems can be turned into opportunities - with the right amount of hard work and determination. Social Axis, General Motors, AT&T, MTV, Burger King, FedEx, Microsoft, CNN, Sports Illustrated and GE, are all proof of that!