For the first time in my life I found myself unemployed for an extended period of time. I have always had a job starting from when I was a kid mowing lawns and delivering newspapers to shoveling snow until my last job as a CEO of a non-profit organization.
I have heard the term and statistics hundreds of times on the news but never really understood the experience. You have essentially two paths to take, one of action or inaction. If you find yourself in this position, I would suggest a plan of action, I have the following insights to help you:
- Set daily action goals and track them (number of people you ask to help you, the number of applications, interviews etc.) I developed a tracking table that listed the goals at the top and tracked them on a daily basis. At the end of the week, I could see the direct results of my efforts.
- Take a good look at yourself. You are not your job. Your skills are a part of you, but they are not you. This is now the time to self reflect and really ask yourself: what do I want to do with my life? What are the things I enjoy doing? What were the components of my career so far that I enjoyed doing the most? What can I learn from my last experience that will help me be a better manager, director, CEO, etc. Jot down your thoughts in a journal to get the reflective juices going.
- Write down the specific jobs or careers you are interested in and focus your efforts on those. Take a career assessment test. There are plenty apps on line that are available. Look at the pattern of your career and ponder about the things you have enjoyed the most. This reflection of the past is an organic way to determine what path to take in the future.
- Set structure to your day. Your job is to find a new job. I started my day between 5:00 to 5:30 a.m., then exercise, have coffee with my spouse and begin my day promptly at 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. focusing on my goals.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Besides a death in the family, this can be one of the most stressful times in your life. I find after a good run, swim, walk, etc. I have a much better perspective on what is happening. This will help you manage the flight/fright response your body creates during periods of stress.
- Watch out of the “China Egg.” This is the job prospect that looks very promising, and you begin to imagine yourself in the role. This is a good thing; however, sometimes the egg does not crack, and your daily activity to find a job drops off and when your prospect falls through, it can be devastating. Keep your activity high. It will only create more opportunities for you to get a job.
- Develop a master career history document. This is a very detailed document for you to reference when developing your resume. Within each job you have had list the major accomplishments and projects you worked on. This is helpful for a number of reasons. It allows you to see the breath of your accomplishments and the pattern of the type of things you have worked on. It is a reference to pull examples when developing your resume. It is a nice document to review prior to going to an interview, so your accomplishments are fresh on your mind.
- Take advantage of job sites like: career builder, indeed, ziprecruiter, monster,etc. In the beginning it is a frustrating process. After a number of on-line forms you will be surprised how quickly you will be able to complete the forms, most request a cover letter and resume that is used for searching and for auto populating the rest of the form. I also found that after submitting my resume on-line a number of other job sites, head hunters began to contact me, some helpful, some hoping to generate traffic to their own sites.
- You must become key word savvy. Resumes need to be set up with the keywords employers are looking for. Most HR departments now use logarithms to winnow down the applications that are being sent in and provided on-line. You may have to design a few versions of your resume to accomplish this. I have business development, marketing, non-profit, and business analysis experience. I set up a different resume for each one, with a different key word emphasis.
- Watch out for employment scams. There are plenty out there. If there is job that offers high income, with what appears to be a very general description and it feels like they are trying to convince you to work for them, stay away from them. Do not provide your SSN on any job site. The way to get around this, is to simply use 000-00-0000. If you believe it is a legitimate site, I would suggest contacting their HR department and expressing your concern. You may find that there is no HR department or that the company is very difficult to get a hold of. This is another indication that it is a scam. If in doubt, you can also Google the company by simply typing “XYZ Company scam.”
- Track your submissions. This is an extra step. I actually developed a spreadsheet that included date submitted, source of submission, contact, location, website, link, items submitted, username and passwords used, notes of any follow-up needed, etc. If you are collecting unemployment, they do require documentation of at least four attempts to get employment per week.
- Set up file structure to project manage your search. My sub-folders within my Search folder included resumes, applications, cover letters, references, salary history, research, letters of recommendations, scanned documents.
- Be confident in your skills and abilities. Do not let negative thinking creep into your mind. Meditation, prayer, positive thoughts and a visualization of yourself in your next job are very important. It is easy to fall into a victim mentality rut. The bottom line is this; anything that keeps you away from meeting your daily goals should be avoided at all costs.
- Do not be afraid to ask others to help you. I met with many people over the course of my transition, they were all insightful and pleasant experiences. Here is one of many examples. I called on a friend, who referred me to his wife, who met with me for coffee, who referred me to eight other people that led to multiple meetings with folks who provided multiple leads to opportunities. That was one phone call. The worst that could happen is they could say “no”. I am not going to die from someone saying no. My experience has been, most people want to help and have empathy for your situation. It is very important that you have a good handle on what you are looking for and can articulate it in a short and concise way so they can understand it in order to keep their ears to the rail.
- There are lots of helpful hints on interviews, from helpful lists of the most commonly asked questions to how to interpret and communicate with non-verbal communications. The main thing I have learned is to be relaxed and in the zone. Do you homework as you prepare to help them interpolate your experience to their needs. You need to be yourself, have fun and be sure to be fully rested and energized (with a good diet).
- For those of you with children, this can be a very stressful time for them as well. It is important that you remain confident that things will work out. I have college age children. I learned from my own kids that this experience for them, was as if Superman was being weakened by Kryptonite. It helped me understand my very important role I have played throughout their lives. I am not asking you to put on a airs, they can sense that. I asking you to do all you can to be confident in your efforts. It is as difficult for them as it is for you to be going through this, so remain positive while working your plan.
- My Personal Statistics during this period (4.5 months): 210 on-line job applications, 75 personal requests for help, 20 job referrals, 30 networking appointments, 25 interviews, 45 rejections (only 25% notify you), leading to 1 accepted job offer.
Believe it our not, this can be a very trans-formative time for you and a very positive one. Take the time to reflect on what you want to truly do with your life and create opportunities to make that happen. Keep up your activity goals on a daily basis during the week, relax on your weekends and work hard to make this a very meaningful and heartfelt change in your life.
Good luck and best wishes to you!