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How to Get Ready to Job Search After a Long Unemployment
Assess Your Needs and Wants
Being unemployed is a scary time, especially when what you assume will be a relatively short time turns into months, and, as in my case, even years. But this time can also be a gift. These days, the workplace puts a lot of demands and stresses on employees. With job cuts, those of us who are not laid off are working for two or sometimes even three; this can lead to early burn out. Use this period of unemployment to assess your lifestyle:
- How much money were you spending before your job loss?
- How much money do you really need to live comfortably and happily?
More importantly, this period of unemployment gives you time to reflect on your previous job and research possibilities for your future professional life:
- Were you in a career that you loved?
- If money were no option, what would you like to do with your life?
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- What are the skills required for your ideal job/career?
Assess Your Previous Professional Life
Now that you have been unemployed for longer than you anticipated, it’s time to dust off the old versions of your résumé, assess your former professional life, and craft the foundation for your new résumé. Here are some questions to guide you, taken from Marky Stein’s 2010 book, Fearless Resumes:
1. What was your professional level, or how many years of experience did you have, at the time of your redundancy?
2. What industry (or industries) have you worked in?
3. What are your skills, strengths, and specialties?
4. What were your accomplishments in your previous job(s)?
5. Have you gone back to school or gotten additional certifications during your unemployment? Have you volunteered? What else have you accomplished while unemployed?
These five questions will give you a solid foundation for crafting a brand-new résumé, whether you are changing careers or simply looking for a new position in your former industry. Once you know what you bring to the table, you can research job openings and write your résumé to the specifications that seem to be trending.
Long-term unemployment definitely does a number on your self-esteem; you begin to feel depressed and, worse, worthless. Answering the five questions above should help you see that what you bring to the table is a valuable skill set. This positive, self-assured attitude will help you tremendously in your job search (no organization wants to hire someone with a negative mindset).
3 Steps to a Positive Attitude
1. Choose joy. Before you get out of bed in the morning, think of one reason to be happy in your life. Look around the room to find that one thing that makes you smile. Is the sunshine streaming through the window shades? Only get out of bed when you have thought of one thing and smiled!
2. Affirm yourself. As you get ready for your day, look at yourself in the mirror and find at least 1 thing to like about yourself. Do not add words like "but" to your affirmation. Tell yourself things like: "I have kind eyes;" "I make great coffee;" "I know how to choose great perfumes;" "My child is so independent; I'm a good mother/father."
3. Change your perspective. Remember when we were little and people would tell us to "turn that frown upside down?" This is a variation on that. This is something that needs to be practiced mindfully, consciously. We all have a tendency to rant and rave and see things negatively at first. For example, when someone cuts us off in traffic, even though we are going at a reasonable speed, our first impulse is to get angry. What I do when I catch myself reacting that way is take a slow, deep breath (trying hard not to think about that #$%$! man/woman). Then, I actively look for a forgiving attitude within myself: "I shouldn't judge," I say to myself, "perhaps s/he just received news of an emergency and is too anxious not to speed."
Do you have any ideas or practices for achieving a positive attitude? Please share them in the comments below!
Attain a Positive Outlook
You’ve exhausted your unemployment benefits and your retirement money (to add insult to injury, you’ve also paid a whopping 40% federal tax penalty for withdrawing it early), your rent/mortgage and utility bills are overdue, not to mention all the other bills you stopped paying because you simply couldn’t afford it, you refuse to answer calls from phone numbers marked “unknown” on your caller ID, you’ve stopped accepting invitations to dinner, fundraisers or even a cup of coffee (worse, your own family has stopped calling or asking you over, or has downright told you that there’s no room at their house, for fear of catching your “undesirableness” or of being burdened by your unemployability), you’ve overdrawn your checking account and your bank has closed it down, your credit score has dropped down to 400 (or lower) in a shockingly short time, you’ve had to go on Welfare for the first time in your life…does all or part of this scenario seem familiar? It’s no wonder you’re feeling blue! However, your negative feelings and worry can still be turned into positives. (Yes! They really can!)
Instead, try to look at your situation this way: if you have managed to keep clothes on your and your family’s backs, some kind of food on the table, shelter and transportation, you must be doing something at least half-way right!
So what if your kids’ “new” clothes were given to you by a friend? You have been networking; that’s how you received something you needed.
So what if you’re now on Welfare and you’ve never been in the system before? You have been resourceful; you have used your skills to research a system that was unfamiliar to you.
You’ve stopped going out to dinner and spending money on things you once took for granted? You have just shown that you can conduct a needs assessment and that you have budgeting skills.
You and your family now “eat out” at dinners given by local churches for needy families? Well, what is that if not learning more about your community resources and engaging with your community?
I don’t advocate necessarily telling all the negatives to a potential employer, but it pays off to adjust how you view your negative circumstances; putting a new spin to those circumstances, by removing the negative emotion, the feelings of stigma, will help you see the new skills your situation has helped you develop.
A positive, “can-do,” attitude is what will help you land your next job!