Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Here are a few tips on doing a killer job search. And no, I don’t mean visiting your former employer and running amok with a machete.

  • From your research (yeah, I know you know how to do that), find some interesting tidbit about each employer you’re targeting in your job search, and mention it in your cover letter.
  • Better yet, connect the tidbit to how you can benefit them. And I don’t mean, “I read in the Boston Business Journal that you’re being sued for sexual harassment. Since I’ve been sued for that several times myself (I like to sneak around corners and bump into my co-workers to cop a feel), I could help you make it go away.” That’s the idea, though. Just substitute a more positive factoid, or one that may be a problem that you can help them solve, but not one that the National Enquirer would pant over.
  • Send your contacts some helpful info. A job lead, a link to an article about something they want info on or a topic they’re interested in, a link to their favorite porn site (not really). But don’t immediately ask for them to reciprocate. “Here’s that info on when Charlie Sheen’s mother ship is coming to take him home. Have any job leads for me?” is SO not cool.
  • Ask more questions than you answer in your networking interactions. And not, “What’s my area of expertise? What do you want it to be, baby?” Just focus more on them than you, and you’ll be surprised at how much more likely they’ll remember you, want to help you, pledge their eternal devotion to you, and grovel at your feet. Really.
  • Dress the part. Even if it’s not an actual job interview. When you go anywhere that has anything remotely to do with job search/networking/strategic shmoozing, dress like a – dare I say it – winner. I’ve seen job seekers show up at networking events in flip flops and muscle shirts. I mean, come on.
  • Keep busy. If you know what time “Are You Smarter Than a 5th-Grader?” comes on, you’re in trouble. And if you’re not, in fact, smarter than a 5th-grader, you might be tempted to stick your wet finger in an electric socket. So set up informational interviews, volunteer, work part-time, take a class, teach a class at a community center. Do constructive stuff you can put on your resume, that’ll help you continue to develop your skills and regularly interact with other humans.
  • Keep a positive attitude. If you’re negative, you’ll be much less likely to find a job, for a slew of reasons. Mostly because the majority of people you come in contact with will think you’re a pain in the ass, and they won’t want to have anything to do with you. Unless they’re negative themselves, in which case you can whine together in your dark cloud of blehhhh.
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Here is a guest post from Lindsey Donner, Lifestyle Editor for http://igrad.com, “the College Student to College Graduate Resource.” She also blogs regularly on writing as a career at http://lindseydonner.com.

Few things in life are more mind-numbing than an extended job hunt. Even if your downtime between jobs peaks at just a few weeks of unemployment, you’re liable to feel quickly diminished, dehumanized, and exhausted within the first week.

There is also the added insult of the career blogs’ intimation that your failure is due, at least in part, to your inability to leave the house and network, network, network. But who wants to network when you could be in your bed, face ablaze with the glare from your laptop, eating cereal with your hands? Exactly: the kind of people who are already employed.

But it’s possible to improve your odds of joining that exclusive club while also rebuilding your dangerously low levels of self-esteem, even when you’re in a slump and seemingly prospect-less. In fact, the worst thing you can do is remain completely disengaged; everything’s harder when you’re rusty and out of the loop.

If you’re reading this in bed right now, I suggest you get up, brush your teeth, and start tackling this list. At best, it’ll help you get a job. At worst, it’ll make you feel better about yourself. What’s to lose?

  • Create a job portfolio. If you’re a designer, you have already done this. But writers, marketers, programmers, and others can benefit from an on- or offline collection of their biggest professional hits. Hints: marketers will want to include numbers and case studies; programmers, a code repository.
  • Find a volunteer gig that matches your skills (or improves them). Volunteering: it makes you feel good. It makes other people feel good. It gets you out of the house. But for the unemployed, it can be a life raft: you might meet your next boss, or find your true calling, or decide to switch career paths, or learn a new skill (like software that the local arts council asks you, their office volunteer, to work with). You will almost certainly have a new resume bullet and renewed confidence.
  • Clean your (virtual) house. You “never” use LinkedIn. (Really? It’s a great tool for targeted job searching.) Or maybe you “never” update your blog, or your Twitter account. And you definitely “never” thought of revamping your resume. Do me a favor: make a list of all of your online accounts, and then work down the list, with the most professional profiles at the top. Then, go through and improve each and every one. Update your resume on LinkedIn. Recommend a colleague.
  • Go back to school, this time for free. Or almost free. There are several obvious, awesome, FREE or low-cost ways for the jobless to acquire new skills. Let me name a few: (1) internships; (2) industry blogs; (3) online skill-building webinars; (4) community colleges; (5) other local venues, like libraries and community centers, churches, etc. Pick up a local newspaper and get involved. If you can’t part with your laptop, find out what other people know that you don’t: how to use InDesign? How to write a press release? What? There’s a blog, course, or webinar with your name on it.

The bottom line, folks? Do something, and do it well, focusing not on your current situation but where you want to be in the next year—when the search finally ends and you climb out of bed.


 


You (hopefully) know a lot of what to do when you and your last job have parted ways. Network, volunteer, join groups, do a targeted search, blah blah blah. Here are some things NOT to do when you’re not working:

  • Stay in bed (alone) until 2:00 p.m. If you’re not alone, then by all means go for it. Well, maybe not every day. You wouldn’t have enough energy left to do a job search. But staying in bed half the day alone is kinda like drinking alone – it’s more depressing and dysfunctional than fun. You don’t have to get up at six a.m. if you’re not a morning person and you don’t have any early appointments that day, but before 10:00 is probably a good idea (can you guess I’m not a morning person??).
  • Watch TV in the middle of the day. It may be tempting to catch up on Jerry Springer and see whose life sucks more than yours, but that’s not a habit you want to get into.
  • Spend hours looking at online job boards and applying for listed job openings. Yes, it’s easy (well, relatively speaking). Yes, it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something when you actually apply for jobs that are listed. But you know where that usually gets you, don’t you? That’s right, you’ll be sucked into the Job Seeker Vortex of the Apocalypse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Eat all day. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.
  • Spend a lot of time rearranging your underwear drawer. You may think, “Oh good, now I have time to do all the pesky household stuff I never have time for.” By all means, clean the house and use the opportunity to catch up on some of that other stuff, but don’t use it to avoid job search activities. If you’re spending more time alphabetizing your toiletries than doing job search stuff, you’re in trouble.
  • Staying up late every night. This goes along with the first one, of course, cuz if you’re out drinking or just up watching Nick at Nite, it’ll be hard to get up at a reasonable time. I fell into this trap when I wasn’t working – at one point, I was going to bed at 3  a.m. and getting up at 1:00 in the afternoon. Needless to say, I didn’t get a hell of a lot done.
  • Spend most of your time hanging out with friends. I don’t mean you shouldn’t see your friends, because they’re very important. But don’t go to a Hitchcock film in the middle of the day with your buddy and call it networking.
  • Spend hours on one cover letter. Maybe the first one for a particular type of job may take longer, and you always want to target your cover letters and take time to make them as likely as possible to elicit responses (and of course proofread!), but there is such a thing as going overboard. Mildly obsessive is okay, pathological is not.
  • Spend hours every day fooling around with your resume. Yes, it’s important to tailor it to the job you’re targeting, and it always is a work in progress to a certain point, but again you can take it too far. Don’t pick at it like a scab ’til it bleeds all over your laptop.
  • Go to one networking group event after another that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I must have said this before, but I’ll say it again – although networking is the most important way to spend your job-search time, and it’s good to open up to new interests, it doesn’t pay to compulsively and gratuitously attend events on topics you could care less about. If you’re into God, guns and ammo, don’t join the Society For Atheist Tree-Huggers.

In my “Top Ten Items to Leave Off Your Resume” post, I included, well, items to leave off your resume. Here are some more:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors – yes, we know you’re an engineer and not a writer. Big whoop. It still won’t help you. Get someone who IS a good writer to proofread. Better yet, two or three someones.
  • Photos or graphics – even if you look like Brad Pitt, employers don’t want to see your picture on your resume unless you are, in fact, applying for an acting or modeling gig. If you’re not, they’ll just think you’re goofy. Same goes for images or symbols of any kind. Even if you’re a graphic artist – employers will want separate samples of your work, rather than artwork on the resume itself.
  • Objective – The worst ones are the totally noncommittal statements that are so general they say absolutely nothing. “Seeking a challenging position that allows me to use my skills.” What skills are those? Your skills at bullshit? Not that those skills don’t come in handy. Chances are, though, you’re not going for a job as a fortune-teller, so don’t expect employers to read your mind. Even if you get more specific, employers need to see more of an emphasis on what you can do for them, rather than what you want. Guess what? They don’t really care what you want. At least not before they know and love you. Don’t take it personally.
  • Lies – employers can expose them pretty damn easily. And it won’t be pretty.
  • Referring to yourself in the third person – Talk about goofy. It looks like either  a.  someone else wrote your entire resume, which doesn’t look too good,   b.  you have multiple-personality disorder, or c.  you have a Seinfeld fixation.
  • Trite, so-over phrases sure to make employers gag, such as:
    – “people person” – do people really still throw that one out into the
    job-o-sphere?
    – “results-oriented professional” – anyone can say that about
    themselves.
    – “organized” – ditto.
    – “excellent communication skills” – double ditto.
    – “team player” – unless you actually play for the Red Sox. But then,
    if you do I’m guessing you wouldn’t need a resume.
    – “quick learner and multitasker who thinks outside the box” – how
    many cliches can we toss into one bullet?

The main thing is – show, don’t tell. Give vivid, concrete examples of the above, rather than stating them like they’re the Gospel According to Saint Job Seeker.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff floating around lately about the flaming hoops job seekers are asked to hop through (one particularly interesting article can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-ryan/career-advice-teaching-pe_b_651880.html). Absurdly long online apps that ask you to describe the first time in your life you belched up your Gerber’s applesauce. Personality tests with statements to agree or disagree with, such as “I often hear voices that tell me to do bad things.” A hiring process that includes ten interviews, a request for a 20-page strategic plan, and a sword fight.

So what do you do if you really want the job, and your unemployment insurance barely supports your chocolate habit?

It’s up to you, but I personally think that any company that requires you to genuflect is probably not worth your talents. After all, you have a lot to offer, don’t you? Of course you do. So don’t assume you have no choice but to fall on your knees, bow your head to the floor and mutter, “I’m not worthy” because we’re in a crappy job market. And after all, if a company’s hiring process is that horrifying, how much worse would it be once you  actually work there??

Now, I understand why you might feel the pressure to just endure the snafus with which you’re presented. The job market is still kinda scary (though it’s starting to look up. Really.), and being unemployed is no fun. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you’re the only one who is in charge of your career, and if you base your choices on desperation, you’ll only end up screwing yourself. Which is never as much fun as… well, let’s not go there. Let’s just say that desperation is never a basis from which you want to operate. And finding a job is a mutual benefit situation, remember?

Staying positive and motivated can be tough when you’re counting the days ’til your next unemployment check. It’s scary and stressful, and generally sucks. Here are some suggestions to make it suck less:

  • Hang around people who have jobs. This may sound easier than it is in the current job market, since everyone and their Great-Grandma Mabel has been laid off, but contrary to popular belief there are actually still people who are working. You may wonder why the hell this will help you. There are 2 reasons. First, someone who is working is more likely to be around other people who are also working, and possibly have job leads. Second, though it’s not a bad thing to occasionally vent your frustration, you don’t want to wallow in it for too long, which is easy to do with your fellow unemployees (yes, I know it’s not a word. So sue me.). That doesn’t mean you should just diss your unemployed friends, or that job search groups aren’t helpful. They are, as long as they don’t become bitch-and-snivel sessions. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Banish people from your life who make you feel like crap. This is a good rule of thumb in general, but we’ll focus on how it relates to your job search. Assholes who bring you down, tell you you’ll never get a job, you can’t do this or that, discourage you, generally concentrate on the negative and tell you the roof will cave in are not people to hang with. Unless they’re roofers who actually know that, in fact, your roof will cave in, in which case you probably want to get the hell out of the house.
  • Do stuff. Volunteer, take a part-time job, join groups that relate to something you’re interested in. You’ll be less likely to lie around depressed, watching One Life to Live and Andy Griffith reruns. You’ll also get your social fix, have the chance to network and possibly find job leads, have something constructive to put on your resume for your unemployed time besides fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom, keep your skills up, and maybe gain new skills that’ll help you get a job.
  • Do good stuff for yourself. Exercise. Gets those endorphins going, helps you be healthy and feel good. Take a bath (no, not because you stink. Well, maybe you do, but how would I know that?). It’s a free way to relax and pamper yourself. You can even indulge in scents and bubbles — even if you’re a guy (of course if you are, I’d keep it to myself if I were you). Eat healthy, but give yourself a treat once in awhile. Do deep breathing or meditation or whatever you’re into to relax.
  • Do whatever’s worked in the past that makes you feel better and stay motivated. You would know that better than me. Refrain from doing the stuff that hasn’t worked or made you feel worse, since that would be stupid.