Today I Woke Up With No Job (6 Tips to Survive Unemployment)

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!

12 Things You Do to Annoy your Co-Workers (That They Will Probably Never Tell You)

I have worked several different jobs during my career.  I have worked in 3 different industries in 5 different states.  I have been a manager and I have been an employee.  I have worked on small teams and big teams. Sometimes I was the youngest on the my team and sometimes I was the oldest.  I have been the only female on my team and I have also been the only African-American on my team.  With all of these different experiences, one thing always remained true….sometimes my co-workers annoyed me.

I know this is a touchy subject but somebody had to address the “elephant in the room.”  We go to work each day and interact with hundreds of people and let’s face it…people are different.  And because people are different, their work ethic is different.  Their idea of what is appropriate and not appropriate varies.  They have individual ideas of what is acceptable personal space.  I mean, has anybody stopped and really thought about this?  What happened to respect and etiquette in the workplace?  Are there any “rules” anymore on professionalism?  Or do we just do whatever we feel is right without regard to other people and how it may make them feel?

Regardless of how you may feel personally, hopefully you can agree that there should be a difference between how you act in the office and how you act in your own home.  Things that may be acceptable to do around your family and friends may not be acceptable to do around co-workers.  So since I’m not your co-worker, I felt it was safe for me to just bring a few things to your attention on their behalf.   Take a deep breath….here are some things that you do in the workplace that your co-workers find annoying (but will probably never tell you):

1.  They would like you to stop opening their office door and walking in without knocking.

Generally when people have their door closed it is because they are trying to concentrate on their work or may be on the phone or may be having a private discussion with a co-worker.  It’s kind of a way of saying “only disturb if really necessary” and when you just open the door and walk in, it is a lack of respect for their personal space.  Think about it this way…would you walk into someone’s home without knocking?  Of course an office is not the same as a house, but it is sort of their “home away from home” and your walking in without knocking it is borderline intrusive.

2.  They really would like you to not leave your dirty dishes/trash all over the break room.

I know some of you have seen the sign that says, “Please clean up after yourself. Your mother does not work here.”  Please, please take that to heart and clean up after yourself when you are eating your lunch or a snack in the break room. Remember, other people have to use that space as well.  I mean really??!!  Who is going to throw your trash away for you?  It only takes a few seconds to throw something away or wash your bowl after you are done using it.

3.  Your team members do not like when you assign a task to them when they are absent.

I have had this happen to me before and I was very displeased.  And then to make matters worse, my team lead told everyone I volunteered to do the task!  What?!!  Put yourself in the absent person’s shoes.  You wouldn’t like it if you missed a meeting and then were informed that you have been assigned to do a task that no one else wanted to do.  Give your co-workers the professional courtesy of knowing about the task and having the opportunity to decline if they are not interested.

4.  Not everyone wants to see pictures of your pets.

Your pets may be cute and like a part of the family to YOU but not necessarily to everyone else. So please keep this in mind the next time you are eating lunch with your co-workers and decide to pull up pictures of your pets on your cell phone and pass it around the table….multiple times!

5.  They would like you to wait more than 5 minutes after sending them an email before asking if they received it.

There is nothing more annoying than when you send an email to someone and then go knock on their door or stop them in the hallway 2 minutes after sending it to ask them about it.  Of course, I know there are some emergency situations that require an immediate response, but most emails can wait.  Also, if you are continuously overbearing in this area it may give the perception that you feel your work is more important than theirs.  This could be insulting to them.  Try being more patient when waiting for responses from your co-workers.  Remember, they are just as busy as you are.

6. If you are going to bring your children to work, they want you to make sure they are well-behaved.

I won’t say anymore so you don’t get upset and stop reading this blog.

7.  Supervisors, all of your employees do not want to have lunch or go to happy hour with you.

Your employees spend at least 8 hours a day at work and oftentimes their lunch break is the only “free” time they get.  It is the time they use to decompress and take their mind off of work for a minute or perhaps run an errand.  They don’t necessarily want to spend that free time with you as their supervisor because they feel like they are still at work and can’t relax completely.  Honestly, there are certain comments they can make in front of their other team members that they can’t make in front of you. So if they have to be on edge or watch what they say then it’s really not free time, but more of an extended team meeting.  And when it comes to happy hours, they definitely want to be able have a good time and unwind and that’s not always possible if the boss is around.

8.  If you drink coffee and eat birthday cake regularly, they want you to contribute to the coffee/birthday fund.

This is self-explanatory.

9.  Managers, your team members want the meetings to be shorter and less frequent.

Your team members do not want to sit through weekly meetings and listen to you do all the talking for an hour or more.  If there is no way around the frequency or length of the meetings, at least try to make them more interesting.  Team meetings are actually a great time to do in-house professional development; in that, during each meeting a different team member could do a mini-presentation on a topic. I am sure there is plethora of knowledge on your team and this way everyone showcases their area of expertise.  Sometimes, incorporating a team building exercise makes the meetings more enjoyable.  You could even include snacks during the meetings every now and then to ease the mood. Trust me…food ALWAYS works!

10.  They really wish you wouldn’t play your music or talk on the phone so loudly that it/you can be heard down the hall.

You have to share the same work space with your co-workers for 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. So a little bit of consideration on your part would go a long way.  Not everyone has the same taste in music and I am 100% positive everyone does not want to overhear your conversation with your mother about Sunday dinner.

(True story:  I had a co-worker who sat in the cubicle next to mine and made/answered EVERY single phone call on speakerphone.  The most annoying part was every Monday he was on a conference call for over an hour….and yes he had it on speakerphone LOUDLY.  This went on for weeks.  I went to him twice and asked him to please turn the volume down and/or get a headset to listen to the conference call, but of course he ignored my request and continued to do it.  One day during the Monday conference call, I could not take it any longer and went over to his cubicle and turn the volume down on his phone myself.  He looked at me in utter disbelief but it solved the problem. He never listen to the conference call on speakerphone again and shortly thereafter got a headset.)

11.  Your team members wish you would stop being so nosey.

Ouch! I know this may sting a little bit so I will be very gentle.  Not everyone is an open book like you are.  Some people are just very private and conservative.  My dad used to always say, “People will tell you what they want you to know.”  All of your co-workers don’t want to talk about what they did over the weekend or show you pictures from their vacation.  You cannot make other people act or think or be like you! And for heaven sakes, stop being so paranoid and asking a lot of questions whenever you see them talking to someone who you don’t know in the hallway or in their office!!  It doesn’t mean they’re up to something or conspiring behind your back.  (Let this marinate…….)

12. Managers, your team members do not like you when immediately start talking about business first thing in the morning.

Most people quit jobs because of their manager – not the actual work itself.  Your team members are human beings and not robots.  They have personal lives. They have issues and they have feelings.  It CAN’T always be about work all the time.  You have to take a moment and show some compassion and speak to the human side by asking about how their sick son or daughter is doing.  I am sure by the end of the day the project will be completed and all the emails will get answered, but first thing in the morning is not always the best time to ask about it.  If you show genuine concern for your employees, they will be more enthusiastic and the work you are concerned about just might get finished by noon!

Now, these are just a few that I’ve noticed and I know you want to add some of your own.  You probably also want a few of your co-workers to read this blog as well, but the hard part is getting them to see it, right?  Well, maybe you could post it anonymously in the break room….right above those dirty dishes.

The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

How to Answer the Dreaded Salary Question

Your interview is going great.  You have answered all of the hiring manager’s questions.  You have sold yourself effectively.  You didn’t ramble and you even kept your hands in your lap and not all over the place.  Then you hear the dreaded question…..”What are you salary requirements?” Everything stands still and time starts moving in slow motion.  A million thoughts are going through your head. “What if I say a number too high?”     “What if I say a number too low?”      “Can I really ask for what I want?”      “Why did they have to ask me this question?” The employer is waiting so you know you have to say something, but what do you say?

We’ve all been there and we’ve all heard that whoever says a number first loses.  Not exactly.  You can adequately answer this question and still get the amount you want if you do your research and position yourself appropriately.  But, be sure to let the employer bring up the salary subject first.  You don’t want to seem like that’s all you care about. Many times the salary for a particular position will be advertised in the job description.  So you can start there in terms of figuring out how much to ask for.  If not, you can go to www.salary.com or www.onetonline.org to look up positions and the average salary associated with it.  Keep in mind the salary ranges are usually given for entry-level, mid-level and senior level.  So first identify what group you fall into.

So, say for instance you want a mid-level Marketing Analyst position.  The average mid-level salary in Dallas, TX is $55,089.  To get that targeted amount you should give a range that is a couple thousand dollars below and a couple thousand dollars above.   Most employers try to make candidates feel as if they really want them and tried to give them what they want.  So giving a range will give them some “wiggle room.”  You definitely don’t want to just say a specific dollar amount because you may sell yourself short if they were planning to give you more or you could eliminate yourself by saying a number that is too high.

So, the next time you are in an interview and you are asked about salary requirements, your response should be, “Based on my research I know that Marketing Analyst in this area make from $53,000 – $58,000. With my skills and qualifications I feel that I fit within this range. I am definitely willing to negotiate.” If you can say this confidently and without hesitation, it conveys to the employer that you have done your research and they will be more willing to take your salary requirements seriously and give you the amount you are requesting.