I have been out of work for a few months. At first, I enjoyed having a bit of stress free time. As I look back on the most tranquil times of my adult life, they were almost certainly the summer after I finished college, the summer after I finished my law degree and the summer after I was severed by my most recent employer. I used those unemployed periods to bring myself closer to my family and friends and to refocus my energy on planning for the future. I was never idle, even if I was relaxed.
If you find yourself out of work during our current economic slowdown, you should not be idle either. Indeed, even if you have no idea what you might want to do with yourself, there are plenty of baby steps that you can take that will help you to discover the path you want to take. Here are ten steps that I used on my most recent hiatus (which, if I am to be precise, has not yet ended!) and which I recommend you consider as well:
Let People Know that You are Looking for Work: I realized this past October that the opportunity I was pursuing was not right for me and that I was not right for it. After a couple of days of consideration and discussing options with my wife, I resigned from my position and began to consider ways of letting my network of former work colleagues know that I was in need of a job. I started by sending e-mail messages off to everyone I knew who might be in a position to help me find a job. I did this in early November. Initially, I did not get any responses but in mid-December, and again this morning, I received two separate job inquiries, both of which appear to be leading to interviews in the next week or so. The jobs were not advertized but my colleagues had evangelized on my behalf and the results appear promising. If I had not been honest with my colleagues and admitted I needed help, I would not have the two opportunities that I currently have.
Update Your Resume: I hate updating my resume. Indeed, this morning I had a preliminary interview with the CEO of a company and had to scurry after the call to complete a resume for his review. If you have not been a good personal record keeper, it may take you some time to gather all of the information that you need for your resume, so jump on that project early and then make a point of always keeping an updated resume on-hand for the rest of your career.
Consider New Opportunities that You Might Like to Explore: If you are between jobs, there may be no better time to consider changing to new fields of work. If you have been trapped in an office for a number of years, perhaps you would like to jump into an artistic endeavor or into a job that will let you work outdoors. Consider your qualifications and talk to people who have jobs that you might like to try. You may find that you have the credentials to make a relatively seamless transition to something that you will really enjoy.
Take Classes that will Improve Your Resume and Bring You Up To Date: If you have been out of school for a few years, you may find that you will benefit from taking a class or two that will bring you up to date in your area of expertise. Perhaps you want to go in a different direction and now is the time to pursue a new field of study, if you can afford it.
Seek Additional Licenses that May Help You to Find a Job: I have a friend who is licensed to work as a hairdresser in 8 or 9 states. Every time she is between jobs, she gets another license. She is now looking for a job and can do so with the flexibility to move to whichever state gives her the best job options. If she had not obtained the licenses during past periods of joblessness, she would not have the flexibility that she needs now.
Take Care of All of the Chores that You Have Put Off Because of Work: If you are out of work, you have no excuses if you fail to accomplish all of the chores that you have avoided during your past periods of employment. When you go back to work, you should have a house that is organized, painted, wallpapered and in every way how you want it to be, to the extent that the tasks are within your ability. If you go back to work and find yourself lamenting that you wasted all of your time while you were unemployed, you will have only yourself to blame.
Find a Part-Time Job: Any job is better than no job if you need money. Do not be ashamed to take a job that is below your usual level of employment. My Dad worked construction before he became a dentist. My brother worked in a kitchen before he became disabled. I worked retail for many years before I graduated from law school. Whether you think of yourself as a white collar worker or not, consider taking any job just to keep you from sitting around your house watching TV and to keep a bit of cash coming in.
Explore Unemployment Benefits: If you have been terminated from your job, even if you received a severance payment, you may still be eligible to collect unemployment benefits.
Master the Use of Internet Networking Tools: I have used my current hiatus to develop my LinkedIn and Facebook networks. I have obtained as many endorsements from past colleagues as possible and generally raised my visibility among all of my colleagues. In short, I have used the Internet to make sure I stay in everyone’s face so that they will think of me if opportunities arise.
Take Some Time to Enjoy Yourself and Your Family Even if money is tight, find ways to enjoy your time off with your family. Take walks together. Play board games. Sit together and read. Go to the gym. Whatever else you may do, use the time that you have to both revive your mind and body.
What do you do when you are between jobs? What advice do you give to family and friends who are in the job market? In the face of a rough economy, what do you recommend for those of us who are looking for work?