By Beatrice Bernescut
So that’s it. You’ve gotten your freedom, your walking papers, your pink slip. Redundancy, dismissal, restructuring, it all amounts to the same thing: you are unemployed. So what are you going to do now? Look for another job, of course, or maybe start your own business. In either case, given today’s job market, chances are you’re going to have more than enough opportunity for reflection. So while you’re busy rewriting your resume for the nth time and scouring the job sites, here are ten simple tips that will help you make the most of your freedom and empower you to take charge of your unemployment.
1 – Clock in and clock out
Stick to your normal work routine. Get up on time and “clock in” to your new job – the job search. It’s too easy to fall out of step with the “real world” – a daily routine will help you stay in touch and on track. And it is equally as important to “clock out”. At the end of the day, turn off the computer. You need time to recharge, and your family and friends will be glad to have you fully present and able to talk about something other than the latest ad or job interview.
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2 – You deserve a break … but not today
Now is not the time for a vacation, however well-deserved. Taking time off will only serve to break your momentum and quite possibly your budget. Do the work now, and you can relax later while you are waiting for the results to germinate. Otherwise you could end up weeks down the line with nothing to show for it – and that’s difficult to explain in a job interview.
3 – Get over it, get on with it
Losing a job is one of the most stressful things that can happen. But you have to make your peace with what happened – good, bad or indifferent. Find a calm, unbiased – and brief – way of presenting it to employers, or the leftover bitterness you are unconsciously displaying could well keep you from finding your next job.
4 – No man is an island
It is easy to feel isolated when you’re not working. Remember: you are not alone. Talk often with other job seekers to share resources, information, tips and encouragement. It may not yield any immediate job openings, but it will go a long way towards keeping you motivated.
5 – The ultimate job description
In order to get what you want, you have to know what that is. Start by writing a “day in the life” of the next job. What do you put on when you get dressed for work (suit and tie, or jeans and a t-shirt?) What sort of an office do you go to (high rise downtown, or the trendy lab in the warehouse district?) And most importantly, what do you do once you’re there? Just remember, you’re not describing a title, you’re describing a job – and it doesn’t have to be the perfect job, it just has to be the next job.
6 – A picture is worth a thousand words …
… Especially when it comes to explaining your career path. Take the time to create your “career portfolio”. Even such seemingly mundane items as budgets and marketing briefs, if well presented, can give an interviewer a far greater understanding of what you have accomplished in your career than a simple sheet of paper.
7 – Watch your words
Be aware of how you’re expressing yourself. For example: “looking” and “wanting”. If you say, “I am looking for a job”, that’s what you will be doing: “looking”. Train yourself to say instead, “I am finding my next opportunity.” The same principle applies to “wanting”. If you say, “In my next job, I want…. “, you will continue to want; try saying “In my next job, I am communicating clearly with my manager, responsible for multiple projects, etc.”
8 – Culture counts, too
Remember that there is culture beyond “corporate culture” and sources of intellectual stimulation other than office-talk. Make yourself a promise to go out to see a movie or a museum at least once a week. It broadens your mind and connects you with the outside world.
9 – Details, details, details
It’s the little things that can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and your job search. For example, it’s embarrassing when you’re asked for a business card and you don’t have one – it can make you feel as though you don’t have an identity. So have personal cards printed and keep them handy at ALL times.
In the same fashion, seeing empty pages in the agenda can be very disheartening. Keep track of all your job search activities – meetings, phone calls, etc. It keeps you in the same activity-based mindset as at work, and helps you to realize how much you are actually accomplishing.
You’ve recorded a professional-sounding message for your answering machine – don’t forget to do the same for your mobile phone. And make sure that your email name is professional as well. email@example.com may be all well and good for your friends, but is not likely to impress any potential recruiters receiving your resume.
10 – Sweating over a hot keyboard is not enough
One of the best tonics during the job search is sweating for real. Whether it’s the gym or putting in a yoga tape, do some form of physical exercise every day. Exercise works wonders for relieving the frustration and tension – not to mention the cramped fingers – that are an inevitable part of looking for work.
Whatever you think or feel about being unemployed, accept this time as an opportunity. This could mean a chance to recover your health after a particularly stressful job or time to spend on a relationship. Maybe it’s just a period of reflection to allow you to determine what it is you really want to do. Whatever the case, make the most of it, so that when that next job opportunity does present itself, you can go back to work feeling refreshed mentally, physically and socially.
Beatrice Bernescut is an international marketing manager with over ten years’ experience in the education, IT, and services industries. She is currently living in Geneva and working in Communications at The Global Fund. Beatrice came up with these ten tips during her own past period of unemployment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Rafiq Sarlie, via Flickr