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Posts Tagged ‘unemployment

Don’t Panic – 7

Job hunting requires a modest amount of preparation. First things first, you need to get organized. Acknowledge your feelings about the transition from one job to the next. Assess your skills, interests, and goals. Establish a search strategy and develop measurable goals that will help you focus and stay motivated. Then get out there and meet people. It’s a process, but it’s manageable.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

7 – Be Prepared to Network

Preparation begins with research. Look at employment trends, like where the “hot jobs” are. Seek out companies that match those trends and exist in your area. Most of that information is easily accessible online, in reports from major news sources. Target specific companies/industries that interest you. Don’t just look at big companies; consider the small, local business equivalents as well.

Job searching is competitive, but easy when you know how to go about it. The four main methods to effective searching are Networking, Recruiters, Advertisements, and Direct Company Contact. Networking is the by far the best method to find a job, and you should focus more of your time on this strategy. The other methods have a lower success rate because everyone else uses the same channels. Be prepared to network and connect with people to find a good job.

Employers like to hire someone they know personally, or through an employee reference, especially when a position is not publicly announced yet. Many jobs exist in what’s called a “hidden job market,” and many never get publicly announced. Don’t panic! You can access these jobs through networking. The strategy for you is to connect with people, ask questions, and gather information from them. Networking does not mean asking for a job. It’s a professional “give-and-take” process that leads to a mutually-beneficial relationship. The key is to grow your network until you expose available positions in the “hidden job market.” Keep them aware of your presence, and make an effort to network in person, rather than over email and phone. Eventually, you’ll meet someone who can put you right in the hands of a hiring manager.

Networking can be laid out in six steps: create a contact list, a target company/industry list, set up networking meetings, prepare, conduct, and follow-up those meetings. Aim for a couple dozen contacts initially. Look for people within your professional, social, and familial networks. Don’t filter anyone, and follow-up with everyone. Target the companies/industries you’re interested in, and use your networks to make a connection. Consider the people you already know, and consider any companies they work for (or with) that could use your talents. There may be people within those companies you want to meet. Do your research; check out annual reports, news articles, and websites. Use that information to develop a rapport with your business contacts.

Setting up a networking meeting is easy. Half the time you won’t have to set them up – they exist already, and can be found through social media networks. Join them – it’s a great way to practice. You’ll first need to create a “Networking Profile” for your contacts (upon request) that will offer a concise outline of your qualifications. Title it as such, lest it be confused with a resume. Resumes are usually received as applications, and that can work against you when it comes to networking. A profile, although similar to a resume, doesn’t include details of your career history. It should clearly define your goals, as well as the companies you’re researching. It should include an overview (3-4 sentences), core competencies, accomplishments, target positions, and target companies.

With a prepared Networking Profile, you can show your contacts how they can help you. Start over the phone, confidently, and work towards an in-person meeting. Be persistent. Make your calls early in the day. Plan ahead with notes, and seek outcomes, like interviews, referrals, and answers to questions. If certain contacts are unavailable, try them back. Some have receptionists, and you must work with them to get through to your contact. Avoid leaving voicemails, and avoid leaving your number. Try to get the names of contacts with hiring authority, or the contacts in fields you’re interested in. Keep your target company list on hand, and refer to it during meetings. Contacts may know people at companies on your list. Draft a script so you know what to say. Ask questions, and create a rapport. Consider exploratory questions that create some dialogue. What do you want to accomplish?

Ultimately, your referrals will either become a personal contact, a professional within your target company/industry, or a decision maker within your target company/industry. Keep your contacts updated on your progress, and send thank you letters shortly after meeting them. An effective networking strategy goes a long way in not only discovering and getting a job, but in developing relationships with professionals you’ll want to grow with.

Don’t Panic – 6

Resumes are a tricky subject, but nonetheless essential in your job search. For anyone unfamiliar with what they are, you have some work to do. Essentially, it’s a summary of your career history. It’s the professional outline of your value in the workforce, and it has to be perfect. Don’t panic. With a little help, you can sharpen your resume enough to cut through the hundreds and thousands of other competing applicants. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

6 – Sharpen your Resume

Your resume should contain a Background Summary, your Education, your Employment History, Accomplishment Statements, and Core Skills that are relevant to the job(s) you’re applying for. Some optional sections may include an Objective Statement, Honors received, Professional Associations you belong to, and any Publications you’ve contributed to. Each section should aptly support your resume. If it’s not relevant to your job search, don’t include it.

Before you create your resume, you really should assess yours skills. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to check out chapter three of “Don’t Panic” to find out more about doing a self-assessment. This will help you identify skills, needs, and values you want to focus on the most. It will also help you better address what employers are looking for.

Resumes come in three formats: chronological, functional, and hybrid. Each reflects your traits and skills in a particular way, so figure out what works best for you. Chronological resumes are good in most cases, since employers usually want to see what your most recent job was. It also helps when you’re last job relates to the positions you’re applying for. Functional resumes highlight your skills and areas of expertise; it lists your achievements by category at the top and summarizes your employment history at the bottom. It’s particularly good for those trying to change career paths. A hybrid, in essence, is a combination of the two.

Background summaries set the tone for your resume. It’s a statement about you, your professional areas of expertise, as well as your knowledge, strengths, and attributes. Whatever follows in your resume will simply enhance what you put in the summary. An example would start by saying something like “Project coordinator with seven years experience in fast-paced environments…” What follows should highlight your marketable skills. Sell yourself, enough to get the attention of readers.

Your education and employment history are straight forward statements. Education statements should include your highest degree earned, your major, the school, and location. Employment histories should include your title, the employer, the location, and the dates of employment. Keep it clean and simple. Capitalize the company names and educational institutions to add visual appeal.

Accomplishment statements are critical components of your resume. They indicate your abilities, and give employers an idea of what you can do for them. Describe instances when you made a difference for previous employers. Don’t panic – start by brainstorming. What did you do in your previous jobs? How did you add value? What challenges did you overcome? Address a problem, explain your action, and highlight the result – that’s called a PAR Statement, and it helps you develop an accomplishment statement (use the “action” and “result” sections). When possible, quantify your results.

Core skills, in my opinion, belong just after your Background Summary. While statements work, I found that listing your skills with bullets is easier on the eyes. Sample skills may include: MS Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Word or Data Processing, HTML/CSS, Customer Service, Accounts Payable, Content Development, and Search Engine Optimization. Be as specific as possible, and be honest with yourself. Limit your skills to between six and eight to save space. Whatever you end up adding, ensure they belong in your “core” set of competencies. Employers look at these, and may ask you to demonstrate or explain them.

Outstanding resumes are visually appealing. They’re also concise (i.e. one page long) unless there’s a need to expand on optional sections. Follow up each job description with a couple accomplishments, bulleted, and begin them with action verbs. Avoid flare, embrace white space, and keep things in the third person. Also, when it comes to saving it, Word Documents and PDF files are the preferred file formats. When applying to jobs online, you may have to copy/paste your resume into a textbox, so I recommend reviewing it in the textbox before submitting it. What you see, they’ll see.

Don’t Panic – 5

If you’re unemployed, and you’ve been out of work for more than three months, you should start considering temporary (short-term) job opportunities. Even if it’s not your ideal profession, you need to get back to work. The job market is competitive, and your best strategy is to simply take what’s available now. In time, you’ll find the right role for you.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

5 – Take what’s Available

It’s a known fact that people out of work begin to lose their technical skills over time. The remedy is to simply get back to work, and while that means taking a role less than perfect, your mantra should be “work while you look.” Hiring managers, recruiters, and staffing consultants agree that a professional background without breaks looks more appealing than one with; unless of course you can justify it (i.e. I went traveling for a couple months). No matter what your desired career path is, you can find the right job while working elsewhere temporarily.

Temporary employment opportunities are extremely popular right now. Companies are interested in “trying before you buy” additional staff, and the unemployed should embrace this. Don’t panic – there’s no guilt when, after one month of employment in one place, you decide to take a better offer elsewhere. Companies anticipate that, and if you’re worth holding onto, they’ll extend an offer, and you can leverage that to negotiate a better salary. Until then, take what’s available, earn a steady income, and get a feel for the industries you’re interested in.

People grow comfortable with jobs that pay well. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Getting that perfect job requires a personal strategy that involves assessing yourself, networking with people involved in what you’re looking for, and communicating your interest with tactful persistence. While you may have to spend months to accomplish this, you’re better off working while you move forward. It shows initiative, motivation, and a genuine interest that employers like to see. Don’t give up on your ideal job, but don’t auto-pass on what’s available either.

Written by Zucker

July 6, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Don’t Panic – 4

Unemployment is a phase, like a lot of things. It’s also a test of one’s ability to manage without the comforts we’re used to, like smoking, drinking, going out for dinner, and buying Whole Foods by the pound, to name a few. When you’re unemployed, you have to pinch pennies like it’s your job. In fact, it is your job. Your job, besides finding a new job, is to limit your expenses, and preserve your health and financial stability at the same time. Habits, while lovely and comfortable, are the first things to scrutinize.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

4 – Cut Habits, and Make New Ones

Again, step back and examine what you spend your money on. You have bills, like rent, utilities, groceries, phone plans, television, internet, maybe even student loans. Before we go any further, if you have student loans, you need to contact the Department of Education and file for a “student loan deferment”. You can do this online. You’ll likely qualify, and you’re monthly payments will decrease significantly until you get back on your feet. Deferment options exist for other loans as well, so look for every opportunity, unless of course you owe money to a loan shark.

There’s no better way to cut a habit than to simply not have money to afford it. Embrace that idea, even if you have $10 in your pocket and you could really use a cup of coffee. As far as food goes, you should make all your purchases at a supermarket. Buy only what you need to survive, and milk them for as long as possible. Consider bulk items that go a long way. Exchange certain products for generic store brands to save money. Stay away from ready-made, processed foods, because in the grand scheme of things, you’re buying less for more. A bag of rice lasts longer than a loaf of bread. And did you know how inexpensive fruits and vegetables are?

If you barely have enough money to get by, you need to take more drastic actions. Discontinue certain services, like television and club memberships. Keep your internet access alive so you can apply for jobs, or better yet, negotiate a way to share wireless access with a neighbor. Internet is crucial to stay connected to the job market.

For some, it’s difficult to cut certain habits, like drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. It’s tough, I know. Those of you that have a dependency issue are the ones with a fight to win. If necessary, ask for help. Losing is not an option. I’ve seen what happens to people who lose that fight, and nobody wants to be in that position. Winning will be one of the greatest achievements of your life. And then consider all the money you’ll save!

Don’t panic. Cutting certain habits like this will help you learn a lot about yourself. It will also help you create new habits that improve your physical, mental, and financial health, all of which are at the top of your list of priorities.

Written by Zucker

May 13, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Don’t Panic! – 3

It shouldn’t surprise you that my “series” so far speaks little of actual job searching. The truth is, searching for a job should be the last step to take. At this juncture, you need to have an open mind, a clear and organized perspective, and a renewed sense of confidence in your abilities. Unemployment knows all ages, all genders, and all races. No matter how long you’ve worked (if at all), you have developed skills that define you. Whether it’s a knack for numbers or a technical craft, you have interests and hobbies that translate into a profession you can truly belong.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

3 – Assess Your Skills

Take an objective look at yourself. What strengths do we have for sale? What kinds of work values are important to you? What do you need in a new career? What are your personal, functional, and technical skills? Professional staffing associates across the world create lists of keywords that help you answer these questions. To give you an idea of what these lists look like, I’ve compiled a set for your benefit. Of the countless other words that may come to mind, implement filters in your judgment to make a refined set for yourself. The key is to have between five and eight solid keywords that you can “own” as marketable skills, values, and needs in the workforce.

There are many benefits to completing a self-assessment. It helps you be honest with yourself. It leads to a well organized resume. It prepares you for interviews that address your strengths, skills, goals and achievements. It allows you reflect on your previous career in ways that help you make better decisions in the future. It will give you a sense of direction; targeting industries and jobs that are most desirable to you and your abilities. Also, it will put a value on your skills in the current job market, possibly exposing weaknesses to work on. Ultimately, it will give you confidence to find the right job. Become aware of your talents and contributions in the professional world, and use them, now.

Your skills are divided into personal, functional, and technical categories. Personal skills are inherent characteristics that go with us to any job we take. Functional skills relate to how well we work with people, ideas, information, and things. Technical skills are specialized practices, usually learned on the job or in school. While it’s easy to transfer our personal and functional habits between jobs, it’s hard to do that with technical skills. Again, you want to use mental filters to create a strong and definitive set of skills to market yourself with. And when you made these definitive lists, ask yourself, how have these skills contributed to my success in the past? Which skills should I work on to be competitive in the workforce? How can I improve these skills?

Don’t panic. This does sound easier said than done, but having done one myself, I can say it’s incredibly beneficial to your future. Like a lot of things, it’s all about confidence. Put a value on your skills, and you’ll feel better during the job search.

Written by Zucker

January 22, 2011 at 8:41 PM

Don’t Panic! – 2

How soon after accepting that you’re unemployed do you go out and do something about it? The best answer, in my opinion, is “a couple days later.” Why? Because you need to decompress. You need to let off some steam, and take a mini-vacation before making your job search a full time activity. I find this important because we need to approach our job search with a fresh perspective, prepared and better informed than ever before.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

2 – Prioritize your Needs

When I got laid off in December of 2010, I cleaned my slate quickly. It was easy; I was not satisfied where I was, and the environment was nothing short of toxic. I washed my hands of it the day they let me go. No matter what sort of paperwork or responsibilities would come my way in the days ahead, they were not on my mind for the better half of a week. Not everyone may share my view, but it enabled me to take a new look at what truly matters to me. I have needs, as do we all.

With that, I’d like to briefly visit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the most fundamental theories in developmental psychology. As per this theory, human needs are placed conveniently in five separate categories. Given we all have a basic understanding of it (from the link provided above), we should confidently place ourselves at the bottom of this diagram. We satisfy this first (physiological) need by waking up each day, feeding ourselves and simply living. But without a job, or a “career” in our midst, we are not truly satisfying any other needs.

Don’t panic. You will satisfy these needs, one after the other, but first things first. We have to strategize our lives around what we have (our health), and what we don’t have (a steady source of income). If you’re collecting on unemployment, you must use your money wisely. Shop smart, if at all. Go online for ways to reduce your living expenses. A good mentality for this will help you conserve even after you find a new job.

Create a system that organizes our professional life. You will refer to it, and add to it, as time goes on. Prepare yourself for much more than just a simple online application process. In today’s economy, you’re more likely to find a job through a networking contact than through a public job listing. Consider that as you begin taking the next step. With all this new time on your hands, use a bit of it to redefine what you’re looking for in career.

Written by Zucker

January 14, 2011 at 12:24 AM

Don’t Panic! – 1

Life is not a straight line. Sometimes, unforeseen forces will alter your way and spin around what used to feel like a comfortable and everyday existence. With this new year, my life has reached a crossroad, a fork, a detour, and I would like to share that with you. I lost my job.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

1 – Accept the Loss

In this critical time in my life, I have learned to take a step back. Don’t panic.

It’s easier said than done. While my heart jumps at the anger, the shock, the denial, the fear, and the depression of loss, it’s all just an emotional reaction to things outside my control. I have to accept it.

Don’t panic!

Before you consider all the questions that arise after losing your job (i.e. what’s going to happen to me?), you need to slow down. This is not the time to jump into hyper-drive. The best thing you can do is simply tie up your loose ends. Cultivate what resources are still available to you (from your old job), and sit on them until you are ready to move forward.

For me, those “resources” were the coworkers who connected with me on a profound level – fellow writers, idea-makers, and people with aspirations that went beyond the corporate roles we shared. We all make friends at the office. Create a list of contacts, and keep those professional colleagues close. They will help you out down the road.

Other “resources” may include intellectual property that gave you and your company a competitive edge, but that, unfortunately, does not entirely belong to you. Ask yourself, “what belongs to you?” You’ll find that, beyond the relationships you made, there is little else to harvest. Accept your losses, and you’ll have an easier time moving forward.

From the moment you walk outside, the very moment you accept that you’re unemployed, you have to look out for yourself, and nobody else.

Don’t panic. When one door closes, another opens.

Written by Zucker

January 6, 2011 at 10:06 PM

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