10 Tips for the Unemployed Job SeekerBy Kimberly Schneiderman
Whether you are out of work by circumstance or by choice, there are several things to learn by others’ job search experiences. Each of the job searchers featured in this article was out of work at least 4 months; one participant had not had a paying job in over 20 years! Their search experiences are unique, yet have similar themes. You can learn from their successes as well as their blunders.
- No matter what your timeline, get your name out there. When Christine, a technology consultant, was laid off, she decided to take the summer to enjoy some free time. But, she didn’t want to miss any great opportunities, so she distributed her resume to recruiters that specialized in her field. This strategy worked to her advantage – recruiters called her for interviews and she was able to demonstrate her expertise without feeling pressured to pursue every position.
Donna wishes she had done more in the early days of her search. Although she had 30-days notice before her medical research job was eliminated, she was not immediately aggressive pursuing new opportunities. Donna only casually looked at job boards and did not initially reach out to her network. “I thought it was going to be much easier than it was,” she says.
- Stay up to date in your field: Take courses that support your career goals and advance your skill set. When Alexis decided to re-enter the corporate world after taking several years off to raise her children, she signed up for real estate courses and obtained her real estate sales license. She realized just how much she no longer knew and began reading real estate and business magazines to supplement her education. “The market changed drastically since my previous career as a relocation specialist,“ she shares, “I wanted to be sure I could establish credibility during interviews.”
- Keep tabs on the job market: Peruse job ads and talk with professionals on a regular basis. Looking again at Donna, she was a bit surprised when she started her search. She did not realize how specialized and small her field had become. Donna found she needed to expand her job search to get exposure and generate employers’ interest in her area of expertise. Shortly after pursuing an expanded list of opportunities, she landed a job and is enjoying her new challenges.
- Use expert assistance: Aligning yourself with a good recruiter is important, but giving them a professional resume and cover letter that immediately tells them what they need to know will get you more attention. For this reason, consider working with an expert. Alexis found her functional resume prepared by a professional, worked well – employers did not realize she had not worked in her field in over 20 years. Daryl, a pharmaceutical sales representative out of work for two years to care for a sick family member said, “My professionally written resume got me attention from employers, but I also used a coach to refine my interviewing skills.”
- Use your network: Cultivating your network is instrumental throughout your career, not just in your time of need. Join networking groups, stay in touch with former managers, and reach out to associates in related fields regularly. Daryl landed three interviews by reaching out to his network, which included several former coworkers. These people knew his reputation and performance record and happily introduced him to hiring managers.
- Set goals: It takes time to seek out job opportunities, network with people, and write cover letters. Create daily and weekly performance plans to develop structure around your search and keep your time focused. Donna found her list of daily to-do items helped keep her motivated and on track.
- Be aggressive: Done appropriately, checking-in regularly with hiring managers is a great way to keep your name in front of potential employers. Alexis was assertive, saying, “I called companies after submitting my resume to inquire about an interview and next steps.” This strategy worked well; it demonstrated her follow up and cold-calling skills – two strengths required in the real estate business – and she is now doing well at a prestigious boutique real estate firm.
- Don’t act on fear: When faced with the choice of a “not so ideal” job and another month of unemployment, it is easy to give-in and accept a job that isn’t really what you want. The problem is that you may not be happy and may find yourself right back on the unemployment line. Donna found herself in this position. Since her field was so tight, she feared that the “ideal” job was never going to come along, even after she had broadened her search. At one point, she said, “I was tempted to accept a job that would have provided an income, but which I would have hated.” After taking stock of her goals, she held out for the position that more closely matched her target.
- Know when to compromise: Christina had the finances she needed to sustain an extended job search, but found she had to adjust her idea of the perfect job. From the start, she had a vision of her ideal job – the position, industry, and pay scale. When she was offered a position that met the first two criteria but was less money than she wanted, she wondered if she should accept the job, but ultimately declined. The result? A month later, the same company came back to her with another position. This time she says, “The money was right and the industry was perfect; I compromised a little on the scope of work, but I am happy with my decision.”
- Stick with what you love: Daryl found he needed to feel passionate about the products offered by the potential employers or he just was not going to do well. When a job surfaced that required selling a line of products he was not familiar with – nor had interest in – he thought he could fake it, but ultimately cut things off. “I thanked the recruiter for her time and told her the company wasn’t the right fit me,” he says. A short while later, Daryl had an interview with a prestigious company he had always admired – a position he found out about through a former colleague – and is now happily working for them!
Being out of work is sometimes terrifying for people, but being miserable in a job you hate can be even worse. Follow our featured job seekers’ advice and you can be just as happy as they are.