As leaders, we are often focused on the next challenge to conquer, the next goal to achieve, the next hurdle to overcome. It’s exciting to take on new endeavors and see where they will lead us. And then there are the challenges you’d like to avoid. Specifically, the unpleasant obstacle of unemployment.
Today, our guest blogger, Greg Frye, shares with us how to successfully navigate the career roadblock of unemployment. His practical steps are extremely helpful and could make a very real difference in your next planned or unplanned job search.
So one day it actually happens to you; your employment ends. You know others who have been unemployed, but not you. You haven’t been without work since you were 16! What do you do? Where do you start?
I recently found myself in this situation. I felt like I had done a pretty good job networking and keeping my professional information current and relevant, but didn’t think I would ever need to utilize my network for my own unemployment. I hope you find my experiences helpful when preparing for your next job search.
Get Organized and Document Your Activity
First, get organized – early in your process. Track your connections and conversations. After a few months, I had over 250 contacts and quickly realized I wasn’t going to be successful if I kept track of everything only in my head.
Choose a method that fits your style. Record when you connected, the gist of the conversation, follow-up dates, recommendations, etc. Do the same with companies and applications you submit.
A large number of your connections want to stay in the loop. Use your tracking method to follow-up every 3-4 weeks with a brief update on your progress and any additional, specific, help you need.
Equip Yourself with Tools and Resources
What tools and resources will you need? Through job search groups and connections, I quickly learned I needed the most basic tool – personal business cards. Search online for business cards and you will find several inexpensive and easy-to-use websites to create and order business cards (e.g. Staples or Vistaprint). List your primary contact information and the full link to your LinkedIn profile. You can add optional elements like a professional photo, strengths, skills, etc.
Next, create a ‘profile’ page you can email and handout. This is different from LinkedIn and your resume and is not intended to give to potential employers. It is a tool to give to connections in order to hone in on your preferred roles, companies, industries and geographic locations. Then rank these as ’ideal’, ‘ok’, and ‘avoid’. It can also highlight your key strengths. Your connections can use these when making introductions or recommendations. If you have or are able to obtain letters of reference, have those handy to email or handout at appropriate times.
Utilize job search resources available in your community. Start with your local library. Ask about databases you can use to research companies in which you are interested (e.g. revenue, growth, number of employees, key decision-makers, etc.). Ask about software and job search classes. I attended classes at the Centerville, Ohio library to learn how to use research databases specifically for a job search. Through the library and job search groups, I also found several other groups and resources.
Through a local support & coaching group, Journey to Hope, I participated in a LinkedIn class and learned how to optimize my profile specifically for recruiters who use the fee-based LinkedIn recruiter tools. Libraries and job search groups also offer several options for assistance with resumes, cover letters and interviewing skills. Take advantage of these to make sure you are on top of your game in every area.
Ask for Help in Specific Ways
Ask for help. For some, this isn’t easy. In my experience, most people are happy to help you in big and small ways. Be specific. Do the work for them. Tell them how they can help beyond keeping an eye out and sending you any leads.
Develop a target list of companies and industries for which you would like to work and ask for connections to those companies. As opportunities arise, use LinkedIn to see who in your network is connected with each company and ask for information you can use in interviews and for referrals. Ask for any job search groups, recruiters and any other resources your connections have found helpful in their own job search.
Network, Network, Network
The most important thing you can do is get out and meet people – even before your resources are in order. Network everywhere — in your existing professional groups; in job search groups; your church; volunteer activities, etc. Mix it up and spend time in multiple types of groups so you have the largest reach.
Connect with influencers who are in your line of work and those who are not. Although I can talk with almost anyone, I do not like to ask others for help because I feel like I am imposing on them. I also sometimes struggle to start a conversation with a complete stranger. If you need help in the area of networking, use the resources at job search groups to learn how to network so you are not shut out of the best job search tool available.
Make the Most of Your Available Time
Have you put off finishing a degree, or getting that certification? Use some of your ‘time off’ to complete those and improve your marketability for your current and future searches. In Ohio, where I live, the state provides funding for some displaced workers. I recommend researching what services are available to the unemployed in your state. For Ohio, I suggest checking with the Ohio Means Jobs office in your county. Be persistent and ask many questions. This same office can help with unemployment benefits and has several other free resources available.
Balance your job search efforts. If it helps, think of it as a pie chart and split your time between networking, recruiters, job search meetings and job boards and improving your marketability. Of course, interviews take precedence over everything else! Most will also recommend that one piece of the time management pie is for taking periodic breaks from your job search. Although your search is a full time job, you need to take time to relax and recharge. The last thing you want is for your exhaustion or frustration to come through in an interview!
Last but not least. Give back – both during your search and after you land your next job. Give back by volunteering at job search groups, helping others who are searching, and in whatever additional ways you feel comfortable. Good luck in your current and/or future job search!