Six Steps Out of Unemployment

by Alex Freund

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Losing your job can happen instantly, or you might be told ahead of time because the company is restructuring, moving out of town, or the like. Regardless of the circumstances, it is vital to attempt to quickly regain equilibrium and find another suitable position—fast. Typically, though, your reaction to the new situation is not logical but emotional. For example, shortly after discharge, your intuition tells you to start calling people who in your mind could be potentially helpful. Logically, that makes sense, but practically, it’s a big mistake. The reason is that first, you’re not well balanced emotionally and so would probably sound too emotional or like sour grapes, and second, you’re not ready to answer certain valid questions.

As a 10-year veteran of serving as a practicing career coach, here is my best advice.

  1. Do nothing until you feel emotionally strong. If you’re still in denial, still angry, and still in shock, wait until you’ve regained your emotional energy, until your creativity is back, and until you feel committed again.

  2. Get your marketing collateral ready. There are at least two vital documents you must arm yourself with, and they must be developed for you by professionals. You need an outstanding—not just a very good—resume and an equally outstanding LinkedIn profile. Both of them must include the right keywords for your industry—the keywords that recruiters and hiring managers query by. Do you know which ones they are? Most people react to this task intuitively by brushing off the dust from an old resume, updating it with the most-recent information, and, often, soliciting friends to help them review and edit it. Sure sounds logical because with the loss of the job, your income stream has shut down and this is not a good time to incur major expenses for the services of professionals to create your documents. But think again. What’s the cost of every week that goes by without income? My strong suggestion is to hire a professional whose work will get you back to work faster. Make sure that the professional is highly recommended. Many quasi-professionals would love to get your money but unfortunately are unable to meet your expectations. By then it is too late. This point has been proved again and again.

  3. Start job search networking. Many people have not needed to network recently because they had a job and therefore never saw the importance of it, or they didn’t have the extra energy to put into it. It is known that 60 to 80 percent of people get their jobs via networking. Only single-digit percentages of people get their jobs by applying online.

  4. Develop your written and verbal communications. Throughout the job search period, all job seekers have to engage others either in writing or verbally. I’m not talking about chitchat but about business communication. For instance, job seekers must write cover letters tailored to the descriptions of different jobs they apply for; they must write thank-you letters right after an interview; and they must write follow-up letters a while after an interview or a meeting or a conversation and so on.

  5. Prepare for an interview. Assume you get lucky and are among, say, five people called in for an interview. At this point—in a departure from the system used in the Olympic Games, in which there are three winners—here in the marketplace there is only one winner who will get the offer; all the rest are losers. Are you that good? Are you that one who is able to outshine your competition? And remember: the other candidates, too, are very good; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been called in to interview. Via the interview, you have only one chance to beat your competition. Can you do it? Forget that in the past you’ve gotten offers. So have your competitors.

  6. Learn to negotiate your compensation. Congratulations! An offer is in your hand, and you feel thrilled because you’ve hardly been able to wait for this moment to happen. But hold on: at this point, you have to accept the job, and the offering company is waiting for your answer, right? Not so fast. Now is the time to start the compensation negotiation process. Make sure you know how.

Via my own LinkedIn profile, you can download a self-assessment survey about reentering the job market. It’s free, and I hope you use it to advantage yourself in the job search process.

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