This statement has been true for me 3 times in my career. Each time was a little bit different – 2 times I had advanced warning and 1 time I did not. With each period of unemployment lots of different thoughts went through my mind. What happened? Why me? Was there anything I could have done to avoid this? Did my manager know more than he was telling me? What am I going to do? I was also thinking to myself – I am intelligent. I have an advanced degree. I’m professional. I’m not lazy and I know I am qualified to do several types of jobs. So why am I unemployed?
I have fully come to understand how not having a job (and a job title) is directly correlated to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Do you have any idea how humiliating and humbling it is for someone to ask you where you work and you have to say, “I don’t have job” or “I got laid off” or “I was fired from my job.” Trust me….it’s not a good feeling at all. Then on top of that people keep asking you about it every time they see you or talk to you, which just adds to the “shame.”
Nonetheless, each unemployment period was a great time of reflection for me. I was able to ask myself some very pertinent questions. Who am I? What do I like to do? What am I good at? What am I passionate about? Where do I want to be in 5 years? Why didn’t I save more money? Were the job and my co-workers really that bad? And ultimately, what have I learned from this experience? So if this is you right now and you woke up this morning with no job, I am hoping to give you a few tips that may help you cope with this time of unemployment and uncertainty.
1) Get Some Rest
Let me repeat….BE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST!! When is the last time you slept past 9:00? (I’ll wait.) Well, now you can!!! It won’t be long before you are back in the “rat race” and having to set your alarm clock to get up at 5 or 6 AM, so enjoy your leisure lifestyle while you can. I know some of you have a spouse and/or children who depend on you and you still have to get up each morning at a certain time, but you can make up for it by taking a mid-day nap. Ya know, it occurred to me one day how busy I get and how little time I have to actually spend in the house that I am paying for. I realized one day that I never really spend anytime in my guest bedrooms. So while I was unemployed, I made up for it by taking naps in those rooms during the middle of the day. If you really want to be a rebel, don’t even get dressed and just lounge on the couch most of the day. Hey, you are paying to live there so be sure to get your money’s worth!! Get some rest.
2) Reassess Needs And Wants
Unemployment is a perfect time to reflect on what you really need and want in your career. Do you want to switch industries? Do you need a job with flextime so you can drop your kids off at daycare? Do you want a job where you don’t have to go into the office everyday? Do you want a job with a 15 – 20 minute commute? Assess what you want and absolutely have to have in a job. In addition, you can Google ‘free career assessment test’ and take one of the many tests online to see what career might be best for you. Even if you are an experienced professional, it may not be a bad idea to take the test just to affirm your strengths, weaknesses, personality type, etc. The more honest you are with yourself and where you are in your career, the easier it will be for you to find a job that works best for you.
3) Develop A Plan
While I do suggest that you get some rest, I also highly suggest that you develop a plan of action after you’re done resting and reassessing. Your plan at minimal should consist of the following:
a) Updating your resume/cover letter – I suggest that you let a professional do this because you have an emotional attachment to the information and may not be able to market yourself appropriately.
b) Uploading your resume and setting up job search agents on websites – You may want to do a few general ones (indeed.com or simplyhired.com) and a few that are specific to your industry and city. Five or six websites should suffice.
c) Saturating your network – Once you’ve updated your resume, send it to those in your network and let them know what you are interested in. LinkedIn is great for increasing your network and communicating with people who may be able to help you. You must also attend networking events and job fairs. Remember, sometimes you have to be bold to reach your goals.
d) Applying for jobs – I know it seems silly to mention this, but I need to make it clear that you should be applying for jobs until you actually get one. Don’t get the ‘big head’ and think just because you got through 2 or 3 interviews, you are guaranteed the job. Even if you are 99% certain you will get the job offer, KEEP APPLYING TO OTHER JOBS!!!
4) Set Daily/Weekly Goals
If you are going to file for unemployment, they will have a goal for you which may be 4 or 5 job search activities each week. But aside from that, you should set your own personal goals. Determine what you want to accomplish each day and week. Now, I will be honest and say that looking for jobs everyday can be a very monotonous and draining process. So it is necessary for you to switch up your routine. Some days you may get up first thing and look for a job and network with others. Other times you may relax during the day and do your job searching at night. During one of my unemployment periods, I would take my laptop to Barnes & Noble once a week and have lunch. I would stay there 3 – 4 hours looking and applying for jobs; however, the time went by so fast because I was in a different environment. For each time of unemployment, once I met my goal I stopped looking for the remainder of that week. So if I met my goal by Wednesday, I didn’t look for a job Thursday – Saturday. This actually motivated me to stay focused and find my jobs to apply for early in the week.
5) Get a New Hobby / Stay Involved
Think about all the times you said, “I wish I had more time to _____________________.” Now you do! Take advantage of the extra time you have to do the things you couldn’t before. You can repaint your kitchen. You can go on a field trip with your son or daughter. You can get a membership to a gym or enroll in a salsa class. If you are already involved in the community through your sorority/fraternity or a non-profit organization, be sure to stay involved. This will keep you motivated and give your brain a chance to think of something other than your unemployment.
6) Reward Yourself For Your Accomplishments
Of course I don’t know where you are financially, so only you can decide what is an appropriate reward for yourself. For some it may be something as relaxing as a manicure/pedicure or as simple as going out for ice cream or a movie. For others it may be a weekend trip out-of-town or front row tickets to a concert. Either way you should have rewards for yourself when you have accomplished those goals listed above. It will keep you energized and motivated. Even though you are unemployed, you still have to take care of yourself and your mental health. Go ahead and spend a little on yourself…..you are worth it!
As you get older and mature, you realize you are much more than what your job title says you are. You are much more than the name tag they gave you to wear at work. Use this time of unemployment to really get to know and fall in love with yourself. Who are you really? Being unemployed for some time can be a bit of a good thing. I know it doesn’t feel good right now, but it will work out for your good. I’ve learned to describe my time of unemployment as a time of transition. I have learned to be still and listen to that small voice that says – YES YOU CAN and YES YOU WILL! I know this isn’t what you had planned for your life, but guess what – dreams change. Your dream job is right around the corner and it will be the perfect job for you. Now let me boldly proclaim to you what I have had to whisper several times to myself….hold on, the best is yet to come! This too shall pass!