"Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn... the clean, cool chill of the holiday air... an [expletive deleted] in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer..."

-Clark W. Griswold (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, 1989)

Yep, that sums up the outlook for the 2008 holiday season and the promise of prosperity in 2009. Only it was not Cousin Eddie parked in front of my office in his "tenement on wheels". Rather, it was the economy and hiring landscape bringing its own brand of foulness to the search and recruiting world... And did it ever reek with the vileness of the filth one might imagine seeing poured from a mobile chemical toilet.

True to form, 2009 started out with disaster written all over it. Only recently did the outlook begin to turn. The year proved to be as volatile as a storm sewer filled with natural gas, but luckily we never got close enough to it with an open flame.

Instead of spending the entire year worrying about when it was going to finally blow, I found myself seeking ways to increase my value in previously less traveled areas. The opportunities to grow personally and professionally existed right in front of my eyes all year, only it took a couple of months and 97 glorious minutes with Clark W. Griswold and his family to recognize them for what they were.

As the volume of new engagements and subsequent revenues continued their downward trend, I determined the need to employ a new focus. In retrospect, this year provided a great opportunity to become a stronger advocate for my clients, candidates and peers. At the risk of sounding cliché, I've always heard that opportunity arises from adversity. But, when something is true - you can't hide from it. Confronting the reality of the situation led to the discovery of 3 major improvement opportunities. Since I am most effective when expressing my thoughts in terms of classic movies from the 1980's, I present my year in review "Griswold Style".

Cover them with Lights

My clients did not open as many engagements as in years past. This created an opportunity to look for new ways to prove the value of our relationships. I tried very hard to take the jumbled ball of lights in my basement, and cover my client much like the Griswold home, and wait for the awe-inspiring moment of illumination that will no doubt come in the form of a robust hiring push in 2010.

Holiday Shopping

New requisitions in 2009 instantly generated a candidate pool to learn from. I learned more about an emerging, niche focused industry than I thought possible. Any time a new position opened, the feeling was almost as good as having Cousin Eddie wanting Clark to buy himself "somethin' real nice" - with his own money. It was as if every new requisition opened up the flood gates of candidates hungry for a job - any job - and taking the opportunity to pile their resumes and 30lbs of dog food in to my inbox.

The Turkey

My co-workers and I all anticipate year-ending W-2's that pale in comparison to years past. As the year unfolded, we had to band together through internal downsizing and decreased financial gain. A strong, necessary bond emerged from this, and I am confident that it will only make us a better team as we begin ramping back up to previous levels. The running joke is that even though things are looking up on the outside, you don't know what to expect until you cut right in to it. The hope emerging from this year of sacrifice is that the roasted carcass of 2009 will not deflate like a basketball in a microwave (I do not recommend trying this - trust me). Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays....Play Ball!

Through it all, my holiday bonus this year is worth less than even a 1 year membership in the "Jelly of the Month Club". But my bonus is one that will legitimately keep giving the "whole year".

2009 will not end with my dunderheaded cousin feeling the need to kidnap an executive, tie a big red bow on him and force apology for things that were out of his range of influence.

Rather, I am going to take my stockpile of assorted jellies, ignore the electric bill, buy myself a shiny new suit with the karma earned in 2009, keep the lights on for business in 2010, and send a message to the world exclaiming that the happy days are here again.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays....Play Ball!

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