Before any of my friends panic, no, I didn’t actually lose my job (at least not at the time of this article); this is just what I’m using for the title.
Having said that, here’s a little background for what prompted me to write this. A few weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine. She was (understandably) flustered because her husband had lost his job. I wanted to help them (and others) out, so I began jotting down my thoughts for this article. Ironically, I had a Facebook “on this day” memory come up on the very same day that I started jotting down my notes for this article; it turned out that on that day four years ago, I was laid off from a job as well.
Losing your job is always a scary proposition. Very few people (that I know of) wants to be unemployed. There’s a great deal of uncertainty. Questions enter your mind; among others: “how long will I be out of work?” “How will I pay the bills?” “How will I get by?”
Having been there and done that, I empathize with people who find themselves jobless. For those of you who find themselves in such a situation, here are some tidbits that helped me through these tough times.
- Above everything else, control your emotions. When you lose your job, your emotions run wild. Most likely, you (understandably) get scared, depressed, angry, frustrated, and so on. The worst thing you can do is lose control of yourself. If you need to do so, find a safe way to blow off steam and keep your feelings in check. It isn’t healthy to keep those emotions bottled up, but at the same time, it is absolutely critical that you keep your head on your shoulders. Find a healthy way to get those feelings out of your system, but don’t let those feelings control you.
- Keep a positive attitude. It is very easy to get down on yourself when you lose a job. Strangely, the last time I lost my job, I actually felt invigorated. I looked at it as an opportunity. It wasn’t so much that I’d lost my employment as much as I was being offered a chance to try something new. I wrote a while back that a positive attitude can be a powerful thing. Rather than dwelling in what was, focus on what might be.
- Take advantage of your free time. A friend of mine who’d lost his job at one point told me that he took advantage of his suddenly-acquired free time to spend time with his family, play golf, and do things he didn’t have time to do because he was at work. While he did focus efforts on his job hunt, he also made it a point to balance his time between searching for a job and having fun — which brings me to another thought…
- Looking for a job is a full-time job. Back in the good-old “answering help wanted newspaper ad” days, quantity was quality (there might be some recruiters who disagree with me on this, but I digress). I am, admittedly, old school, so a part of me still subscribes to this mindset. There were job hunts where I averaged about ten applications a day. There’s also doing your homework — researching companies and potential employers, sizing them (and yourself — again, more on that in a minute) up, getting addresses, making phone calls, polishing your resume and your cover letters, and so on. That makes for a lot of time and effort, and it will tire you out. Make the time for your job hunt endeavors — but don’t forget to balance your life as well.
- Find something to hold you over. No, flipping burgers isn’t sexy, but it’s a source of income. Even minimum wage is better than, say, zero (and it might also be better than unemployment benefits, which, in my experience, usually pays squat). There is no shame in taking a temp job to hold you over until you land on your feet again.
- Get involved, and keep yourself busy. Number one, it’ll get your mind off your situation. Number two, it’s a chance for you to network (again, I’ll expand on that in a bit). Number three, you might learn something new that would make you marketable. For more thoughts on getting involved, check out my article on getting involved with user groups, as well as an article I wrote about using your skill set for speaking at conferences.
- Be honest with yourself. When I started getting down on myself about my job situation, I asked myself a few questions, including: “where do my strengths lie,” “what am I capable of doing,” and “what do I really want to do?” I identified my own skill sets and my interests; this, in turn, helped me identify positions for which I was qualified, as well as developing my own professional persona that helped me with interview skills.
- Be creative. As part of my job search, as well as a tool for networking, I created business cards for myself. However, these were no ordinary business cards. I remembered a scene in Mr. Baseball where Tom Selleck’s character learned that Japanese businessmen networked by exchanging business cards. He gave them his baseball card. That got me thinking: “Business card… baseball card…” and I put the two together. The result is what you see in the picture below.
The picture is a souvenir photo I got on a trip to Cooperstown (they dressed you up in the uniform of your choice and took your picture with a stadium backdrop). I took that photo and made it into the business card you see above. The back side has my contact information, and inside (it’s a folded card) contains a mini-resume with my career information. I always get great reactions from people when I hand these out; someone even once said to me, “if I was in a position to hire, I’d hire you right now just because of this card!” People will remember you, and it makes a great conversation piece.
You don’t have to come up with a baseball-business card (hey, my idea, darn it!), but by all means, tap into your creativity to get yourself noticed!
- Network, network, network! Did I mention that you should network? These days, networking is probably the best way to find a job. Someone who knows of a job opening can probably tell you about it long before the open position becomes public knowledge. That extra time could very well be your foot in the door.
- Take advantage of available resources. In this day and age of communication, you have no excuse not to make use of social media. LinkedIn is specifically designed for professionals, and many online resources (including and especially job-hunt and networking resources) ask if you have a LinkedIn account. If you’re looking, you can’t afford not to have an account. While Facebook isn’t specifically geared toward professional networking, it is still another resource you can tap.
- Don’t limit yourself. Would you consider moving or taking a job outside your geographic area? Would you consider working from home? What about a different line of work? Would you work part-time, odd hours, or a contract position? If you’re in a jobless situation, you may very well need to keep your options open.
These are just some of my thoughts regarding surviving a jobless situation. Did I miss anything, or do you disagree with any of my thoughts? Feel free to comment below.