Ah, unemployment! It’s so interesting to observe how individuals respond to losing their jobs. The normal emotions of panic, shock, anger, bitterness, and dejection all set in. For most people, the emotions pass, and the task of a job search sets in. Personally, I have been in this “limbo land” three times during my career, and each time my response and response-time changed. By the third time, I had this whole process mastered because I had learned some important lessons.
1. Limit Pity Time
My third time without a job garnered the anger and bitterness response, but I gave myself 24 hours — literally. I poured myself a drink (maybe two), I wallowed in my anger, and just let it roll on. Funny thing is, when you do this, you will actually be over it before the 24 hours is up. Then, you begin to focus on developing a plan for a job search. And that job search can drag on and on, so you have to prepare yourself in advance for all of the things that are headed your way and develop some pretty thick skin.
2. Fine-Tune And Add To Your Hard And Soft Skills
Take a hard long look at the skill sets of your profession. Are they hard or primarily soft? If you intend to stay in your field, then do something that will add to those skills. Take a class (even if it is mid-semester, there are plenty of online courses you can begin anytime) to add to your hard skills. You must stay current in your field even if you don’t’ have a job.
If your skills are primarily soft (like HR, management, or sales), then get a couple of the newest books on the subject. Not only will you get some fresh ideas, but it will be great if you can mention a couple of authors or titles during an interview!
3. Clean Up Your Social Media Presence
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one and make it shine. If you don’t know how to do this, there are plenty of people out there who do this for a living — spend the money to make it stunning. Once you get on, join groups in your career field, participate in discussions, and build a network. You never know where an opportunity might come from.
Potential employers will probably look over your profile, so keep it up to date. The nice thing about LinkedIn these days is that it is fast becoming a clearinghouse for jobs. Employers are posting positions and actually looking for candidates who fit their requirements. This is why you want that profile to be just right. It should contain all of the keywords about your skill sets because employers search for those keywords.
Those off-color jokes and other inappropriate stuff that your friends are posting to your Facebook timeline? Get rid of them and learn how to set your privacy settings so that there are only certain things a non-friend can see. And don’t you dare post anything on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else that bashes a former employer or company — that’s a perfect way to never get an interview!
4. Keep The Right Attitude
This is a tough one, especially when you keep getting ignored or rejected. There is no magic wand to keep out the negativity, but something that worked for me was this: Every time I found myself sinking into negative thinking, I literally slapped myself in the face, and that was my signal to stop and to immediately put my thought elsewhere or do something that made me feel good.
Surely, you can find things in your career that were great successes — pull those up from the recesses of your memory. Think about what you have achieved so far in your life; get out and do something that is altruistic. For me, it was volunteering two mornings a week at the animal shelter. There was just something about caring for helpless creatures that made me feel really grateful for all that I had, and I would always return with a renewed spirit to press on. You need to remember this: When your attitude is poor it shows up in your cover letters, in your email correspondence, in your phone conversations, and in your interviews.
5. Consider If This Situation Is An Omen
I don’t mean omen in the spiritualistic sense, but I do believe that sometimes we unconsciously set up situations to force us to do what we probably would rather be doing anyway. I mention this only because, after my third round of unemployment, I began to engage in some serious self-analysis about what I really wanted to do for work.
My answer was to take my great skill set and strike out on my own. It was not particularly easy, but it was amazing how motivated and excited I was, and how much time I was willing to devote to getting my own business started. Don’t get me wrong. This is not an easy endeavor, but if you really want to give this a go, you can get all kinds of help and support and guidance available online and in books for free. For example, I could have hired an attorney at $300 an hour to get myself incorporated, but instead I was able to set up my own limited liability corporation for a fraction of the cost.
6. Hire a Resume Specialist
You may be nervous about finances, but you will be a lot more nervous the longer your unemployment continues. So spend the money and get a local resume specialist, and make sure that they either have graphic design skills or have someone on call for that. The average resume is reviewed for only five to seven seconds, so how do you think yours will stand out if it is the same boring template as everyone else’s? There are lots of unique templates and classy but captivating designs these days — try out one for yourself and see what happens!
7. Stop Using Stock Cover Letters
If you are too lazy to do the research about a specific company and to write a cover letter that speaks to both the company and to the exact responsibilities of the open position, then you don’t deserve an interview. Get online and research the company; read the job description several times. Create a cover letter that will engage! And if you don’t know how to do that, get the information and take it to that resume specialist.
8. Develop And Maintain A Support System
You are going to have bad days — accept it. But you need supportive people with whom you can talk when you do. These are people who can pump you up, who can get you in a good mood, who will meet you for a drink, and who will spur you on to keep searching and sending out those resumes.
9. Use Only Niche Job Boards
If you get on those huge job boards (e.g. Monster.com), your resume will be among hundreds for the positions in which you are interested. Get on job boards that are specifically for you career niche. The number of applicants will be far fewer and the chances of having your resume actually read will be much greater.
10. Take A Break
You may not feel as if you can take a beach vacation right now, but how about going out of town to visit a favorite cousin or friend for a few days? Just getting out of the job search environment will give you something else to focus on, and you will come back with a better spirit. If you don’t have someone to visit, register for a conference, or take a day trip.
11. Stay Physically Active
Whether you join a gym or not, there are ways to get in good exercise. Ride a bike, jog or power walk, swim, get rid of your lawn service and mow it yourself, get outside and engage in physical labor around the house. Plant a garden, pull weeds, trim bushes, paint — do all of those things that you thought you might get to at some point. Physical exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good hormones that keep your thoughts positive and give you energy. And you do want energy right now.
12. Eat Well
Just as physical activity is important, so is your diet. Make certain that you are getting plenty of fiber, fruits and veggies, and healthy protein. Not only will you feel better, but you will have good energy.
13. Seek Advice From A Career Coach
If you are just not getting the interviews or the call-backs, you may need to meet with a professional career coach. A good one can conduct some great assessments of your strengths and weaknesses, can evaluate your skill sets, and can develop a personalized program of improvement and career search.
If you don’t do that, at least look to those you know in your career field and ask for job search advice. But remember this: Career coaches do not have any history with you, and they will be brutally honest. Others you know may not be.