10 Things I Learned About Being Unemployed
This past July while on vacation with my wife, I received frantic phone calls and texts from coworkers at my office. The company was restructuring and our entire office was on the chopping block. Later that day, I received the official call from the HR department in the corporate office, informing me about the situation. In the coming months, I updated all of my process documents and start training my replacement. Here are a few things I’ve learned since losing my job of 9 years.
1. The Anxiety
We were given several months’ notice that our office was closing. The range of emotions varied day to day, but as the date drew nearer and everyone’s future was still unknown, anxiety remained a constant. This can be debilitating, but don’t let it. Stay calm... breathe - it’s not over, you are just closing the most recent chapter of your life. Be constructive, update your resume and have it ready before you start looking.
After transitioning my projects, I had weeks of downtime. Does your employer offer online training courses, or is there someone at your place of work that has the time to train you on another skill that can get you closer to a new certification or boost to your resume? If you have the time, use the resources around you. Stay focused and get through the anxiety of not knowing your future by being better prepared for it.
2. The Resume
It’s a horrifying experience to send a resume to a company and then realize you’ve forgotten a key skill or a certification that could have landed you the job. You may be overlooked for someone who was a little more thorough while crafting their application. Asking for help from others is a good idea. Have coworkers look it over and return the favor, have a manager read it, and find an online professional resume review resource to provide valuable feedback.
Employers may also require a cover letter so don’t be caught off guard and have it ready, even if it is fairly generic. Like your resume, it will need to be tailored to the specific job you are applying for, but you should have an outline of what you’d like it to say.
3. The Search
The search can be the most time-consuming part of being unemployed. There are thousands of online sites, so where do you start? I started locally on www.jobsHQ.com and www.jobsND.com. Use these site to find information on job fairs, courses on resume building and interview skills, and even links to starting your own business. Large national boards can also be helpful, but be prepared to wade through pages of jobs to find the right one for your search. The actual printed paper is still a great resource in many communities. Grab a copy from the local coffee shop or library.
4. The Networking
If you haven’t by now, start a LinkedIn profile. It is easy to do and can be an effective tool in not only connecting you to employers, but connecting employers to you. Plus, many online applications allow you to use your profile to automatically fill in fields which can save you time. Once created, you can customize the link to your profile so you don’t get a series of random letters and numbers automatically assigned to your page. Use your name if possible since it will look better on a resume and be easier for the hiring manager to find you.
Always be ready and have copies of your updated resume on-hand, in your car, computer bag or backpack because you never know who you’ll meet while networking in person. Check if your city has networking events open to the public. I’ve found that 1 Million Cups is a good way to connect to new businesses looking to hire. Even if the event is focused on something outside of your field, just try it. You may be surprised how your knowledge transfers and is useful to different or emerging industries.
5. The Online Application
These can be dreadfully long or delightfully short. I’ve found it helpful to keep a cheat sheet for long online applications. Have your references, cover letter and previous work history handy. Also, pay close attention to what’s in the job description. If it’s focused on a skill like Excel, you may want to practice a little before filling out the application since there may be a test included. I’ve found that most applications are of the short variety and only require a job seeker to upload a resume and copy and paste a cover letter or personal branding statement. No matter what, all types of applications are equally important to your job search, so don’t overlook a position just because you feel the application process is long.
6. Dude, Where’s My Rejection Letter
In the weeks I’ve been unemployed, I’ve filled out countless online applications and posted my resume on several sites, only to receive a small handful of rejection letters. It is frustrating to say the least. Am I still being considered, am I out of the pool of possible candidates, do I contact this employer via phone or email? Remember that this is out of your control, so don’t fill out the application for your dream job and sit back and wait for them to contact you with an offer since it may never happen. Continue to search and apply for positions even if you prefer one in particular.
Look for a date that a job posting closed to help ease some of the anxiety. There is also no consensus if you should contact an employer after submitting a resume - expert opinions are all over the map. Use your best judgement. In general, however, it’s oddly satisfying to at least receive a rejection letter so you know you can move on.
7. Interviewing and Interview Preparation
Once you have landed the interview, start preparing that day. Learn about the company, know their products and services and find other personal contacts who work there or know about the company. Ask good questions. Think of reasons you will be a good fit for the position and the company. Focus on the skills you have that will be valuable to the company and come up with a situation or two from your previous job where you had to be a leader using those skills. Be prepared, be polite, learn names, and remember that the interview process starts before your car enters the parking lot.
8. The Salary Question
The dreaded salary question. Not all applications will ask for a salary range, but some will. I don’t think anyone likes this question. It’s impossible to know if you are pricing yourself out of the position or selling yourself short just to get the job. Come up with a range that you’d be comfortable with given your financial needs. Most people would accept a lower salary for better benefits so mention this and work it into your negotiations if you are offered the position. Also remember that you are not powerless at the negotiating table. If the employer is serious about hiring you they will be prepared to negotiate.
9. Stay Occupied
Although searching for employment is hard work, you will have downtime. Find something you like doing; a project you’ve been putting off, learning a skill, or focus on getting out and networking. While there are more opportunities for constructive activities in the summer months, the boredom can be all consuming in the dead of winter. Stay occupied!
10. The Depression and Self Loathing
I started with emotion and I will end with one as well. Don’t fall into this one, because I have. Be aware of the signs of depression - a quick online search can give you all you need to know about the warning signs. It is important to talk to friends and family and while it may be uncomfortable to express these feelings a significant other, best friend, or family member is a safe place.
Remember that being unemployed does not mean you are incapable of finding work, you’re just waiting to write the next chapter of your life.
Recently unemployed, William Malvin was a Technical Specialist for a shuttered technology company in the FM area. Graduating from MSUM in 2007, Malvin earned a B.S. in Geosciences with an emphasis in Geology. In his newly acquired amount of free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, motorcycles, and generally spending time outdoors. Check out his linked in profile here.