Surviving Long Term Unemployment
Having recently endured a long stint of unemployment, I know it can be a tough time, driving even the calmest job seeker into madness. Going back to work has been, I think, made a little more difficult by the amount of time I went with only a small amount of mental stimulation, and little interaction with other people. Looking back, I feel that my time was fairly productive, but at the same time, there are things that I'd have liked to change that would have made the time I was unemployed even more productive and stimulating. My hope in writing this is to help others make it through a tough time and perhaps even shorten the amount of time one spends unemployed.
Have a Plan
Finding oneself unemployed can certainly be unsettling, and in a time of financial turmoil, can be downright depressing. It is so difficult to find a job due to several factors. Unemployment is high, and new jobs (jobs that are created through growth) are at a lull. Additionally, there are so many sites where one can find and apply for jobs: Careerbuilder, Indeed, Craig's List, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Beyond, and even Facebook has got into job searches. Defining what type of position you'd like to have, along with salary and benefit information, can be integral in ensuring a good job match as well as a less frustrating application experience. Additionally, have an eye on a few companies for which you'd like to work. Focus on locating decision makers in that company, what type of qualifications are needed for your dream job, and do some research. Having a plan in place will factor in greatly when it comes to reducing the amount of headaches encountered in doing a job search, and lay a path for points two and three below.
The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is almost half of that of those with only a high school education. While this seems like a travesty for those who have plenty of experience in their respective fields, it is a reality of the working world. Online education is available from several reputable for profit universities, as well as non-profit universities. These classes, while not for everyone, can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so even if you find work while in school, classes can still be attended.
Even those with a bachelor’s degree can still find it difficult to gain long-term employment, and perhaps it is time to brush up and use this time to gain new skills, or bolster old ones. Many community colleges offer continuing education courses around a variety of topics, both in-class and online. Not only will this help job seekers learn new skills, but will help keep them mentally stimulated. Also, employers love to know that the time spent unemployed was used productivly.
Finally, consider certifications if there's not enough time to earn a degree, or you already have one. Certifications cost money, but can be a shortcut to shoring up a resume.
Networking is just as important as furthering one's educational goals when it comes to finding work. Thanks to the internet, recruiters get hundreds of applications for every single position, so simply applying for a job is not enough. Networking allows job seekers to get directly in front of employers, and can be done through online venues like Facebook and LinkedIn, and off-line through job fairs and industry mixers.
Going to your local unemployment office can turn up opportunities to connect with others. There are plenty of job fairs, resume and interview classes, and in some cases, funding opportunities for those who are unemployed for extra-ordinary lengths of time, or are from select industries.
Attending workshops and events can also be therapeutic; offering the opportunity to simply interact with others. Additionally, these events can turn up opportunities that may not be advertised through traditional job channels. Even interacting with others through LinkedIn discussions can turn up opportunities and help job seekers stay sharp.
Certainly if the content of one's resume is king, networking is its queen; it is just like anything else - doesn't matter how great the product is if no one knows about it.
Get Some Exercise
There is a ton of stress involved in being unemployed, especially for a long period of time. Exercising regularly can help reduce stress PLUS reduce that waistline that many get as a result of stress. I'm not talking about going to the gym (although that might be another chance to network), just getting out and taking a daily walk. Exercise keeps the blood pumping and is cheap entertainment. Not only will you get a chance to tighten your belt with a shrinking waistline, you can tighten your belt financially. Exercise costs nothing, but offers huge returns.
In addition to physical exercise, mental exercise is likewise important. Be sure to read a book (I usually read one book that has some educational value, followed by a book that offers entertainment value), take up puzzles, or anything that can help keep the brain active. Jerry Springer and Maury shows definitely not recommended for this purpose.
Spend Some Money
The saying that "You have to spend money to make money" even applies to one's job search, especially if you're serious about recovering quickly. LinkedIn's job seeker is a great way to interact with decision makers directly with its InMail product, and they offer five InMails a month. Pay someone to revamp your resume, so that you look sharp to prospective employers. Remember, the longer you're unemployed the less income you make, so spending a few dollars now will pay immeasurably later. Say you can't afford it? Cut down on the things that aren't necessary that you spend money on, especially monthly subscriptions, cell phone bills (your usage will likely drop, so make sure that the plan fits your needs), and cable. Those are things you can likely live without and pick back up on easily once you find a job.
Remember it is unemployment, not FUNemployment, although there are needs to take a break from the constant networking and passing out the resume. Look for opportunities to make money to support yourself while you're unemployed - CraigsList's "gig" section is filled with one hour to one day jobs in nearly every category. Do some volunteer work, too, and help build your community. Looking back on my experience, I do consider many of the things I did a success. I know now, however, that I could have done more and made it easier on everyone, not just myself.