Where To Look For Jobs In The Recession Companies coping with the recession are laying off thousands of workers and cutting positions. That makes it tough for the unemployed to find work. The good news is there are a few industries, such as healthcare, that seem "recession-proof."
NPR logo

Where To Look For Jobs In The Recession

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98339217/98339212" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Where To Look For Jobs In The Recession

Where To Look For Jobs In The Recession

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98339217/98339212" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is Talk of the Nation, and I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Bad news about layoffs comes almost every day now. Almost every major industry is shedding jobs, and surveys show that dwindling numbers of companies expect to take on new workers next year. The army of the unemployed grew by half a million just last month, so there's terrific competition for the few jobs that are open, and this seems to run across the board - technology, government, law firms and advertising, entertainment and travel, not to mention construction and real estate.

But of course, some sectors and some parts of the country are doing better than others. In a moment, we'll hear from a couple of experts about which industries are hiring and which aren't. What areas are relatively better off? From time to time, we'll hear stories about how people adapt in tough times. It's Your Life in a Recession. Today, looking for a job. Later in the hour, tips on tips; seasonal gratuities, do the rules change in a recession? But first, if you found a new job lately, if you're still looking, tell us your story. Our phone number, 800-989-8255, email us, talk@npr.org, and you could join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation. And let's begin with a caller, and Mark is with us, Mark calling from Portland, Oregon.

MARK (Caller): Thanks for taking my call, Neal.

CONAN: Go ahead, Mark.

MARK: Yeah, it's a great discussion. They had the same one, identical to what you're discussing today on out local public radio here in Portland, Oregon. Being a born-and-raised native here in Portland, I've prided myself, growing up here, in being able to pursue what I wanted to in life until recently. I was 30 years in the high-tech computer industry. I taught in the university three years ago, with no degree, believe it or not. And recently I had to take a minimum-wage job in the last year in hopes to save my home of 20 years that I designed and built. It didn't happen; fell into foreclosure a year ago.

I don't think many of the news stories and the media across the nation are disclosing much beyond the speculators and investors losing their homes, but - and spelling out emphatically what happens when you're foreclosed and evicted. You become homeless. This especially bad area here in Portland, Oregon, is - we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, although it seems to be the most desirable city to live in. And so, people are rushing here, thinking they've got arts degrees and they'll find work in the arts, but it doesn't happen. They're pouring shots of espresso in coffee houses instead or working in restaurants.

CONAN: And are you having difficulty finding even minimum-wage jobs like that?

MARK: Well, many people tell me that, you know, I should go look at something like that. I just came out of a courier driving job, which is something I wouldn't have taken, but had to, just out of force - floating and surviving for the last year. But work here is only a four-hour day at $10 an hour; it's not even really minimum wage. I am excited about the new presidential administration and the talk that President-elect Obama is going to do something. I'm hearing talk of a possibility of what the FDR did, bringing people like artists back to work maybe to do things in public places.

I know some of my non-artist friends kind of laugh at that idea, but I think it would be great. I mean, my artwork gets seen in NASA websites, roadside astronomy, but people email me from all over the world asking if they can buy it, use it on their book covers, their company logos. I'm not set up here to produce this in that way, but it's nice to think I can do something resourceful pertaining to my childhood path(ph). But to find work in that, it's very difficult here in Portland. It's - we're known as the City of the Arts, kind of an underground arts movement that's been here for half a decade, or half a century, rather.

CONAN: Sure.

MARK: But it doesn't really mean that there's those jobs available for everybody in the arts. It's still really a starving-artist world. I recently told people during the presidential campaigns and met almost all of them who came through town here in Portland. And I - it occurred to me one day I thought - after designing and building my home 20 years ago and just losing it to foreclosure a year ago is very humiliating, and what the banks did, and I think they just admitting to this now, that it did no good for banks to run people out of their homes and just devastate the neighborhoods.

CONAN: Because there's no market. They can't resell them anyway.

MARK: Right. Well, they resold mine. They gave it away for nothing. Some young kids got it, and I hope they appreciate it, because it's uniquely designed, artistically designed, by a fine artist, and the thousands of dollars of landscaping I put in myself is really - it's disheartening just not to see that anymore every day when I wake up. I've been staying at a friend's home, sleeping on the couch here for last eight months. And I'm still doing my astronomy art, and it's fun to get that up on the web, but the real thing I thought of was, is if I were elected president, first thing I would mandate would be that anybody who's designed and built their own home in this nation and maintain it for 20 years, regardless of what happens to the banks, the economy, that person's earned that piece of land, that home. And if they're over age 50, rather than making these people homeless, they can contribute to society, whether it's teaching, whatever it is, they have the right to just keep home. Something should be reworked or maybe a new loan process worked up for a person. There should be contingency plan as they're talking about now.

CONAN: Well, we'll be paying close attentions to see what happens. Mark, I'm sorry to hear about your house.

MARK: Well, thanks, Neal. Well, I look forward to seeing what others have to say about this discussion today.

CONAN: All right.

MARK: Great show.

CONAN: Thank you. Our next guest is Laurence Shatkin, and he's a career-information expert, and his latest book is called "150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs." He joins us from member station WHYY in Philadelphia. And thanks very much for coming in.

Dr. LAURENCE SHATKIN (Author, "150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs"): Thank you for having me on the show.

CONAN: An astronomy artist, I suspect, not one of the 150 best recession-proof jobs.

Dr. SHATKIN: I wouldn't rank it among that. Jobs and the arts are really very competitive even in the best of times, and during hard times, they are among the first to go.

CONAN: In what industries other than the arts, is it difficult to find work these days?

Dr. SHATKIN: Well, finance industry, obviously, has been very - I mean, hit very hard, and things that are connected with purchasing that new house is this construction that's been hit and the occupations associated with that. I think of the appraisers and the realtors, the inspectors, you know, there are various kinds of occupations that depend on new homes being sold, and they're really being hit hard.

CONAN: Any places, any sectors, that are hiring?

Dr. SHATKIN: Well, you know, in certain parts of the country the economy is doing well, and in certain parts - you know, certain industries are doing well. Healthcare is always going to be doing well. People get sick, and they have to be taken care of. And education is another field where there still are jobs now. You know, they're not as many as they were before, and there are individual school districts that are laying off teachers, but generally kids have got to go to school every morning.

CONAN: And President-elect Obama talking about hiring a new army of teachers just today.

Dr. SHATKIN: Yeah, that will be good to see.

CONAN: Any particular regions of the country that are doing better than others?

Dr. SHATKIN: North Dakota, I was reading recently, seems to be weathering this very well. You know, they never really rode all that high during the boom, and it seems like they're not being hurt a great deal by the recession. And I've read that there are parts of New England where there are some hiring in some tech industry there. Though, you know, a lot of tech workers have been hurt by this. In general, technology is doing much better during this recession than it did the last time around when the tech bubble burst. Technology has become almost like water; you turn on the computer in the morning, it's almost like turning on the lights. The water, that's expected to flow. And you expect there will be a network, so people have got to keep that running.

CONAN: And other than Michigan, other places in the country - Michigan, we know, is really hard hit. But other places in the country doing especially poorly?

Dr. SHATKIN: Nevada is doing very poorly right now. A lot of their income depends on people going out there and playing slots and the crap tables and so forth. And it's, you know - there - people don't have that disposable income, or they fear - they're afraid to be risking it. And then, of course, the - California and Florida have been very badly hit by a lot of home foreclosures.

CONAN: Well, let's see if we get another caller on the line. Richard with us, Richard calling from Greensboro, North Carolina.

RICHARD (Caller): Right. Yeah, Richard Roland. I have a bachelor's degree, master's degree, taught technology and taught in the education system, and I can tell you from looking at Greensboro for - since June, and also in New Orleans, and Roanoke, Virginia, that there are no education jobs.

CONAN: Why those three areas in particular?

RICHARD: Hometown, place where my wife and four year old and eight year old are living, and previously in New Orleans.

CONAN: And so, the places that you would be interested in living in or most interested in living in, but it sounds like you're willing to relocate.

RICHARD: Right, and there are no jobs, and even I've applied for a part time at Target and Lowe's and other places, and they're really not hiring either.

CONAN: Any ideas for him, Laurence Shatkin, about where people might be hiring teachers?

Dr. SHATKIN: Well, you do have to be flexible about location. I mean, rural districts tend to be always looking more for teachers than the number that are available. So, looking in the cities may not be your best place to be looking. And you know, it's unfortunate that a lot of the fallback jobs that people do fall back on, things like retail and waiting tables, those are particularly badly hit right now. So, that makes it particularly hard to be looking in some - trying to find some other work to hold yourself, keep yourself going. Our caller from Portland was - I think he was driving for courier service, and you know, that's something that still there's a need for, the need for drivers and people working in grand transportation. But you know, for education I would say, yeah, look outside the cities.

CONAN: Richard, good luck.

RICHARD: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to Glenn, Glenn with us from Panama City, Florida.

GLENN (Caller): Yes, sir. Thank you for taking my call. Can you hear me?

CONAN: Yeah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

GLENN: Right, I wanted to tell people out there that it's not a easy an lifestyle, but if you need make ends meet, you can do it by taking classes, getting your class-A CDL and becoming a truck driver. Even if you do it for a few years, you can live in some fairly rural places; you can see the country; you can make some good money, put it away and then make your decision, maybe, when the economy is on the rebound.

CONAN: You're talking about big-rig drivers?

GLENN: Yes, sir. That's right.

CONAN: And are you - it sounds like you're obviously you're in the business.

GLENN: Yes, sir. That's correct.

CONAN: And do you hire drivers?

GLENN: Companies, just - I am not plugging any company in particular, but I got a start with a company and my advice would be this: Go to a community college, see if they have a class that they can either teach you or recommend, and if they don't have that then, you can go to one of the big national companies that's really legitimate. You can go through their training class. It might cost you nothing, except to basically say that you're going to work for them for a year. After a year, you're off the hook; you've paid for your education. And you know, you can switch companies if you want to.

CONAN: And as you say, it could be a difficult life, but you can make a good living, too.

GLENN: That's exactly right. You're - you know, it was explained to me like this: It is hard, but your first year, you know, you've not got very much credibility out there on the road. About two years down the road, if you have a good driving record, you know, you go from, like, basically, just having a basic credit line, kind of credit card, until you start getting a gold and a platinum card. You know what I mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GLENN: Because if you're a driver, you're in demand.

CONAN: All right, Glenn. Thanks for the good news.

GLENN: Thank you, sir.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And it sounds - that sounds right. You were mentioning transportation just a minute ago, Laurence Shatkin.

Dr. SHATKIN: Yes, and actually, there's been an uptick in people, older people than used to be working in that field, driving trucks. It seems like a lot of the drivers being hired now are older, and so, a lot of them have gone back to school, as our caller just said. Taxi driving and bus driving is another field.

CONAN: Stay with us, if you would, Laurence Shatkin. We're talking about looking for work in the current job market. If you found a new job lately, if you're still looking, tell us your story. 800-989-8255, or you can drop us an email. That address is talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Another sign we're in a tough job market: One woman resorted to wearing her resume around Los Angeles. She had it printed on a T-shirt: resume on the front; cover letter on the back. No word yet on whether it's worked. Our focus today is on the job hunt, which industries are hiring, which regions of the country are doing better than others. If you've found a new job lately, if you're still looking, call and tell us your story, 800-898-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org, click on the Talk on the Nation.

This email from Mathew in Flagstaff, Arizona: I work at a home-brew store, which seems to be one of those industries that is recession-proof; perhaps people feel they'll save money by making their own beer. This is typically our busy season, and we are blowing away last year's best numbers. We've hired about 50 percent more employers in the last two months, and each employee is now earning overtime.

And this is from Scott by email: I live in Arkansas, and we're a small business that makes airplane parts for all types of airplanes. We've never been better, and we've been hiring and are getting loan to build a larger building, which will hopefully be going up next year. We've never had layoffs because of slow times. I wonder if others that are building airplane parts are going through similar times as us or if they are failing like the others. Laurence Shatkin, any word on that?

Dr. SHATKIN: Well, that's one of the few niches of manufacturing that seems to be doing well that I've heard of. That's quite impressive, I guess they must have a very good method of producing that to do it more economically than foreign manufacturers. So much of our manufacturing industry has going overseas. I'm not surprised to hear about the home-brew shop doing well. I'm a patron of home-brew shops. I brew beer myself. And I know a lot of people are doing this kind of thing, doing more cooking and more of food preparation at home and going out to restaurants less and buying less things that are prepared.

CONAN: Well, joining us now from our bureau in New York is Lindsey Pollak. She's a career expert for college students and young professionals. Her new book is "Getting From College to Career," and Lindsey, thanks very much for being with us today.

Ms. LINDSEY POLLAK (Author, "Getting From College to Career"): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And we've been talking about older workers for the most part. Are recent college grads fairing any better?

Ms. POLLAK: You know, it's not as bad for recent college graduates, except that compared to the previous markets in the past few years, what they've been used to is being snatched up right after graduation and working in great companies. So, for those at the lower end of the salary range, in the entry-level jobs, things are a little bit brighter, but in comparison, I think they're struggling and feeling a bit frustrated right now.

CONAN: Well, here, we got this email from James in Detroit: I feel like I graduated college at the worst possible time. I recently received a marketing degree from Central Michigan University. Where should I go? I will be finishing a market-research internship this week ,and I've not found anything fulltime. Of course, Michigan, well, Michigan is going through hard times in all kinds of sectors.

Ms. POLLAK: Absolutely, I would say the first stop, which is absolutely essential, is going to the career services office of your university. Only about 20 percent of students actually take advantage of that free resource. So, for those of us who are well out of college, it can be very expensive to have resume critique and to find databases of jobs. But going through your college, they have access not only to the companies that recruit on campus - and some industries are definitely recruiting; accounting for one, is still heavily recruiting on college campuses - but they also get access to some of the positions at small- to medium-sized companies from alumni, from local companies, that wouldn't necessarily be listed on a national job site or in a newspaper, but they would go through universities to try to find qualified entry-level candidates. So, first stop, career services, and I should say, about 95 percent of schools will serve their young-professional audiences as well through career services. So, it's not just a resource for undergraduates.

CONAN: And what about all of those kids who are graduating and thought they would go to work on Wall Street in the financial sector or in Wall Street-type jobs and in other places? That industry has really shattered.

Ms. POLLAK: You're probably describing the majority of emails that I get from students...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POLLAK: Is, I thought I was going to work on Wall Street. I don't understand. It's very tough, particularly if you were expecting that to be easy. So, for those students, I think the job now is to do the research, find other industries, organization types, small businesses, government jobs, education, we've talked about, international positions. Graduate school is getting a lot of attention right now. But I think it was quite easy to just decide on the Wall Street path, and now students need to be a lot more creative, talk to more people in their families and in their universities, their friends and ask people, what else is out there? And I think the gentleman from Florida, talking about trucking, brought up a really interesting and important point particularly for young people, which is, this is not a decision for the rest of your life. This is the next year or two to get you through this difficult time. So, there may be finance/Wall Street jobs in the future. But right now, you need to find something that'll be a good first step.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Cambery(ph), Cambery with us from Aspen in Colorado.

CAMBERY (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

CAMBERY: Yes, I was a recent - I'm 23 years old, and I was recently a college student living in Fort Collins, Colorado, and studying nutrition and biology. Just figured that's where the money was at, because old folks are needing nutrition, diabetics, and thought it might be a good field to go into. And while I was going to school, I ended up having to drop out because I couldn't afford my bills and my living and I couldn't afford to take out loans for school. So, I ended up dropping out and working full time as a manager at a restaurant. And while I was there - I was there for about two years - I started taking in applications for hiring, and most of the applications coming in were from folks with bachelor's and master's degrees, even one woman from Brown University just looking for an everyday job.

CONAN: Ivy League, yeah.

CAMBERY: Yeah. And I just started seeing all these trends, and it was just getting kind of scary living in the city. I just didn't know how much I could depend on there. And the jobs in the college town are really hard to come by, especially well-paying ones if you don't yet have a bachelor's degree. So, what I ended up doing - I had a connection in Glenwood Springs, Colorado for a job in Aspen to water plants, and these are in homes in multimillion-dollar homes in Aspen. So, I thought, hey, this is probably pretty recession-proof. This is people with money and...

CONAN: A lot of money in the stock market. Sure, they have wealth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CAMBERY: Right, lots. So, I moved to Aspen, and I now work watering plants and - which is nice. I was studying biology, so I enjoy that part of it. But over the last, I'd say, two months, we've lost several accounts, and I am getting concerned, again, regarding if we're going to be able to keep our business up and running. And it's just so funny. You move and you try something new and then something else happens, and you just have to very flexible and keep on truckin'.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So to speak. Cambery, good luck. Thank you.

CAMBERY: Thanks. Oh, and also your last caller had lots of great comments regarding resources for college students.

CONAN: OK, thanks.

CAMBERY: Thanks for that.

CONAN: That was our guest, Lindsey Pollak. So, let's ask you again, Lindsey, what she's describing in her job as the restaurant manager, getting all those, you know, people with master's degrees.

Ms. POLLAK: Well, I really want to applaud Cambery for being so flexible and working so hard. I think she demonstrates what college students and recent graduates need to do. I think - cast a wide net, as we said, with retail jobs, restaurant jobs; look in a wide variety of places, which I think Laurence mentioned; and I think - you know, it used to be that you would network or get your resume out there when you thought you needed job, and I think the message that all of us need to hear, whether you're a college graduate or not, is you sort of have to be looking all the time and be aware of where the positions are. Talk to everyone you know. Ask people if they hear of anything in their area, and really read up on the news and career websites and blogs that you enjoy, anywhere and everywhere, to hear where the opportunities are, because it's often going to be these small pockets of opportunity that we've talked about and not necessarily the big companies or the big industries that used to hire masses of people. So, keep your ear to the ground and, like Cambery, be very flexible and positive. I think she was very positive.

CONAN: And Laurence Shatkin, not all of us are going to make a living watering plants, but we could start small companies. Is it a good time to, well, if you're out of work, try to be an entrepreneur and start your own business?

Dr. SHATKIN: That's one technique that some people use, and sometimes they can come upon some very productive things to do. I mean, there are service jobs, just like watering plants. I supposed you could be walking dogs and doing some other service jobs like that that are personal services. But then there are people who have a little bit of web savvy and create some sort of a website that people want to use. It makes it easier to be an entrepreneur in some ways than it's even been. You can reach a mass audience pretty quickly through the web. And of course, there are other entrepreneurial things that are done on sort of a local level in your local community. You may - keeping your ear to the ground, knowing what people's needs are, you may have an idea what sort of services people are looking for.

CONAN: Let's get John on the line, John calling us from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

JOHN (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure, go ahead.

JOHN: Just wanted to kind of tell my story. I, for the past 10 years, have worked in finance and real estate and most of that in mortgage origination, which I know won't garner me a lot of sympathy from the audience. But that industry, of course, has imploded over the last few years. And in January of this year, I started looking for something a little more stable. I was an independent contractor. So, I was a, you know, 100-percent commission employee. And slowly, business dried up. I wasn't really having any luck finding any work. So, I took a calculated risk in August of this year and decided to stop working and just search for a job full time, and then also go back to school just with a fresh start. I went to earn a degree in health information technology, thinking that it would be less cyclical; health care will always be in demand.


JOHN: So...

CONAN: Hard to outsource those things, too.

JOHN: Well, yes. Hard to see a doctor that's not in the same room with you. So, I found that looking for a job in that field with no experience and no credentials was getting me nowhere. I couldn't even get a callback or an interview, so I had to look for just entry-level jobs in finance. And even that was a challenge. So, I applied for unemployment benefits and was shocked to find out that because I was attending school fulltime, I didn't qualify for unemployment benefits. I'm taking classes online, so I can take them in the middle of the night. I've been looking for fulltime work, and I've been looking for it fulltime. So, my classes wouldn't interfere with any schedule, but I'm disputing it with my state's unemployment insurance agency.

CONAN: And those rules are different - every state has a different setup. But I wonder, do you have resumes on Monster.com, that sort of thing?

JOHN: Everywhere, yeah. I put out, you know, 20 or 30 a week. And I'm - less than half of the time, do I even get a response, even a thanks-but-no-thanks letter. So, it's really scary. I've never had a problem finding a job before, and now it's - I can't even - it's like shouting into the wind. There's just no response.

CONAN: Yeah, really scary I think it describes a lot of people's experience. And well, Laurence Shatkin, people are scared that it's going to get worse, not better.

Dr. SHATKIN: Yes. But one thing I would caution people on is don't over-rely on sites such a Monster and other online sites. I don't have anything against them, but what I'm saying is, don't make them the sole focus of your job hunting. What Lindsay was saying earlier about networking and letting people who you know, know about the fact that you're looking for a job, that's really of paramount importance; that's where most of the jobs are found. Most jobs are not advertised in newspapers or online. They open and close, and they're filled by people who know somebody who knows somebody.

CONAN: Hm, OK...

JOHN: That's what are most of my search has been, has been networking. And my most promising leads have come from that. So, you're right; don't rely on Monster.

CONAN: Good luck John.

Dr. SHATKIN: It can be part of the mix, but it shouldn't be the whole ball of wax.

CONAN: Let's get Chris on the line, Chris with us from Avenel, New Jersey.

CHRIS (Caller): Yes, Neal. I'm a truck driver. I've been in the industry about 15 years, and I'd just like to give a different perspective on the - I'm hearing a lot on these types of shows where people are encouraging folks to go get a trucking job. And it's still - we're way over capacity; we were over capacity during the boom, to the point where shippers are dictating rights. And just to give you an idea of what the job is like, the rollover rate right now is the 127 percent. So, if a trucking company has 100 driving jobs, they hire 127 people every year to fill those jobs. That's the industry average. It's a tough life. I'm one of the oddballs that actually enjoys it, but it's getting hard out here. I've been sitting for two days Avenel, you know, waiting on getting a load. My company is still hiring people. The industry - the pie is only so big, so if a company wants more work, the only way to get more is to have more drivers.

CONAN: I see.

CHRIS: And try and get a bigger section of that small pie. And it's getting smaller.

CONAN: Also, just on an immediate note, Avenel, one of the beauty spots of the planet.


(Soundbite of laughter)

CHRIS: Great place to spend two days.

CONAN: Yeah. Chris, thanks very much for the advice. Appreciate it. We're talking about the job search, Your Life in a Recession. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Let's get Ed on the line, Ed with us from Kansas City.

ED (Caller): Yeah, hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call. I was telling your screener that I've got one of those jobs that, perversely, is probably as secure as it get. I work as a court process server for the people who deliver the papers for the district court here in our community.

CONAN: People are always glad to see you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ED: Yeah, yeah. Surprisingly, very few people think that I'm there to help them get their life back in order. But it's kind of a sad note that particularly foreclosure and medical-bill claims are just enormous anymore.

CONAN: Well, I...

ED: And I guess it's just a sign of how bad the economy has become with people out of work, of course, they lose their medical insurance, and then comes the bills that they have no way of paying. And it is kind of a sad thing.

CONAN: Well, Ed, we wish you the best - continued good luck.

ED: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Bye-bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And let me ask you, Lindsay Pollak, this time of the year, there are a lot of jobs that do come open, seasonal jobs.

Ms. POLLAK: Absolutely. Retail, unfortunately, as Laurence brought up, used to be the place to look for seasonal jobs during the holiday time, and there still are some opportunities, but I think on that topic - seasonal jobs, part-time jobs, freelance gigs, consulting jobs - this is actually how I ended up accidentally starting my own business, was during the downturn in 2001. I started taking on freelance work, and there are many, many websites - from craigslist, to elance.com, guru.com - all across the map where people can pick up either part-time work, virtual work, as we've talked about a little bit, and certainly jobs with small companies who, again, are not going to be as well-known to people. So, those some other ways to pick up some work over Christmas vacation for those who are in college or just to get you through until a full-time job comes across.

CONAN: Now, this email from Rob in Salt Lake City: There is a national shortage of special-education teachers that is critical in many states and areas, including here in Utah. Folks can be hired and working in teaching jobs while they're taking educational-training programs at the same time. Though, I should note rules about that change from location, school boards, states, check on that. Utah has a reasonable cost of living and many amenities to recommend it, including beautiful mountains and scenery, outdoor activity. So, special-education teachers.

And this from Caroline in Delta, Pennsylvania: I live on the Mason-Dixon Line in south central Pennsylvania. Nearby in Harford County, Maryland, there are many military-related jobs, huge employers - SAIC and Aberdeen Proving Grounds - due to the Base Realignment Act. And Laurence Shatkin, as we think about that a lot of areas - states and local governments are laying off jobs, but defense contractors, federal government, could that be a growth area?

Dr. SHATKIN: It's holding its own. And there are times when defense is increased a lot and times when it crashes. So, I tend to look at - I've been looking for occupations - when I look at recession -proof occupation such as the one in this book - the occupations that tend not to go up and down depending on passing trends. And sometimes, adding a lot of armaments is something that happens for awhile and then it starts getting cut back again.

CONAN: Yeah, then you get into - that goes into recession, too.

Dr. SHATKIN: Now, sometimes it's not connected with the whole - with the business cycle; sometimes it's more of a political matter or a matter of foreign policy.

CONAN: Yeah, when shift - priority shifts like that, but - and those downturns can been extended. Anyway, Laurence Shatkin, you can find out more information from his point of view in his book, "150 best Recession-Proof Jobs." And he joined us today from member station WHYY in Philadelphia. Thanks very much for your time.

Dr. SHATKIN: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And we'd also like to thank Lindsay Pollak, a career expert for college students and young professionals and the author of "Getting from College to Career," with us from our bureau in New York. Thanks very much.

Ms. POLLAK: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: Coming up, tipping in a recession: hairstylists, bartenders, cab drivers, how bad is it this year? How much do you depend on those seasonal tips. if you work as a doorman for example, or a hairstylist? Give a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.