Monday, June 1, 2015

Job Seeker's Handbook: Don't Wait!

Education, family, the workplace, the Internet - there's a lot of information out there about how to be a good employee, but did anyone ever teach you how to be unemployed? This is the first installment of an ongoing series of advice from people who have been there.

When a job comes to an end, it can be easy to find yourself stunned and dazed. Looking at a buyout offer, a severance check or an unemployment award letter can take the pressure off, giving you a chance to breathe and a few months before paying the bills will be a problem. Some people use it as an opportunity to take time off.

Tip #1: Don't wait. 

Yes, by all means, take a short breather if you need to, a week or two, think about what your next step might be, and work through the emotions associated with whatever happened to bring your career to a temporary halt. But be careful of taking too long, and extending that time beyond what you should.

  • It will take time to land another job. Employers, mindful of the cost of a poor hiring decision, are taking longer to make decisions than they have historically. There are often multiple rounds of interviews, tests and even assignments. In the same time that you spent interviewing with 5 or 6 companies in the past, you may be lucky to interview with 1 or 2. 
  • You risk creating a gap on your resume that gets more difficult to explain as it expands. Job interviews can be nerve-wracking under the best of circumstances - why make it harder?
  • Employers want workers who have their head in the game and are ready to jump in with both feet. If you're in the groove of scheduling meetings (interviews), getting reports (resumes) out on time, drumming up business (job leads) and treating the hours of 9-to-5 like business hours, you're more likely to present yourself as someone who can make a smooth transition than someone who's gotten used to sleeping late and watching TV until noon.
  • In our culture we tend to define ourselves by our jobs, so the further we get away from doing that activity on a regular basis, the less confident we feel and act. Put yourself in the employer's shoes: would you want to hire someone who's unsure of themselves, or someone who presents confidence that they can get the job done? The more connected you are with the memory of yourself as a working professional, the easier it will be to sell yourself as one.
  • The longer you wait to ask friends and family for help, the harder it is. Yes, pride will be a factor. How many job seekers have heard that awful line, "You still haven't found a job?" or some form of it! Your network will also need time to understand what you're looking for (yes, not everyone understands what you do, even when it seems like it should be perfectly obvious), and to get feedback from their network.
  • If you're tapping in to government resources, like unemployment payments or state-sponsored training, that takes time too. You may run into unexpected delays due to paperwork that's required, or you may miss the start of classes by putting off investigating your options, for example. Contact your local EDD or WorkSource center as soon as you know you're looking for a job (even if you're still employed) so that you will know what's available to you and what's required.
Instructors in the LA Fellows program will assign "action steps" to help the participants keep momentum. In our experience, the LA Fellows who land fastest are the ones who jump on the job search the fastest, try everything they know to do, are open to learning. Getting employed takes time. Start now, treat your job search like a job, and be prepared to put in a full week of search related tasks and activities every week. And don't wait.

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