MANAGING A CAREER IN A TOUGH ECONOMY: Venezuela: New Realities, New Lessons

Article excerpt

"I'm a 37-year old Venezuelan, who during the last 16 months has lived through the odyssey of job searching. I really don't know how many kilometers I have walked, nor résumés I've sent or applications filled. What I do know is that I'm feeling desperate and depressed. I haven't got the moral strength to face my family, more so when my son is asking me, 'dad, aren't you ever going to work again?'"

That's the story of Miguel, a public accountant with experience and lots of motivation. Like him, more that two and a half million unemployed are trying to survive and keep their careers on course. Where have the good old days gone? Venezuela [Figure 1], one of the richest countries in the world-the fifth oil producer with a population of 22 million-had been growing steadily for the last 40 years. It was named the land of opportunities for its natural resources and democratic political system. Many immigrants from other countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and others made this land their second native country. Early in the 90's Venezuela had an important place among developing countries.

Today, however, this situation has changed for the worse: the country has the highest rate of unemployment of the region (25%) with a tendency to increase. Now Venezuelans are emigrants. Most of them young, qualified professionals with no hope of finding significant jobs at home and looking for better opportunities elsewhere. Many have become depressed and with negative views of the future.

Is it possible to manage a career and be successful in such a difficult economy? "Everyone shines his own light amongst all the rest. There aren't two fires alike: there are big fires and small fires, and fires of all colors. There are people with calm fires that not even the wind knows, and people with mad fires that fill the wind with sparks. Some are fires that neither shine nor burn, but others burn with such passion that you can't see without your eyes blinking, and whomsoever approaches shall light up."-Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer

The human being has an enormous capacity to create and generate solutions once he/she sets out to do it, or when encouraged by challenges. Venezuelans are by nature cheerful people, with a sense of humor, friendly, creative and optimistic. Always trying to draw the best out of each situation they know how to turn adversities around, rise up again, and with renewed strength move forward. The following scenarios provide an idea of how people are coping with the difficult situation of the Venezuelan job market:

Scenario 1: This scenario includes 53% of the unemployed population. They make a living through informal jobs, using their creativity and talents doing the best they know, and waiting for the situation to improve

Scenario 2: Includes a minority of employed professionals who have been able to remain in their areas of specialization. They are survivors of cutback programs, always on the lookout for better opportunities in and outside their companies.

Scenario 3: Others have been forced to rediscover themselves and engage in new and personally satisfactory career path.

Let us now allow the actors themselves to describe how they have undertaken the challenge of restating their professional future, and, why not, their lives.

Case Study: Pedro

Trying hard to build an executive career in information technology After 16 years of a successful management career in an important public services private company, Pedro switched to an executive position in a mass consumption enterprise. Despite an impressive record of achievements, and with no explanations given he was fired. Today, after an 11month search he has managed to find a job as project manager in an IT outsourcing company. Although he would prefer working in a larger company that could grant him more "security," he has learned from the experience how to cope with difficult changes. …