Don’t Panic #5 – Take What’s Available

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 Employment

#5 – Take What’s Available

It’s a hard 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 may imply 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.

Work while you look.

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, 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.

Temporary employment opportunities are extremely popular right now.

People grow comfortable with jobs that pay well. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit for you. 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.

Don’t Panic #4 – Develop Good Habits

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 Employment

#4 – Develop Good Habits

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, contact the Department of Education or your lender 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.

If you have student loans… file for a student loan deferment.

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?

There’s no better way to cut a habit than to simply not have money to afford it.

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!

If necessary, ask for help. Losing is not an option.

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.

Don’t Panic #3 – Assess Your Skills

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 Employment

#3 – Assess Your Skills

Your skills are divided into three categories: personal, functional, and technical.

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.

To start, take an objective look at yourself. What strengths do you 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 extensive lists of keywords that help you answer these questions. Here’s a sample list of commonly used keyword associations to give you an idea of what those look like.

Take an objective look at yourself.

Of the countless keywords that may come to mind, implement filters in your judgment to create a strong and definitive set of skills to market yourself with. When done, 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?

Create a strong and definitive set of skills to market yourself with.

The key is to have between five and eight keywords per category 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.
  • It will put a value on your skills in the current job market; possibly exposing weaknesses to work on.
  • It will give you confidence to find the right job.

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. Become aware of your talents and contributions in the professional world, and use them, now.

Don’t Panic #2 – Prioritize your Needs

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 Employment

#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.

Take a new look at what truly matters.

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.

Strategize around what you have and what you don’t have.

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.

Don’t Panic #1 – Accept the Loss

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 Employment

#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.

Slow down, and tie up your loose ends.

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.