Real talk - if you've been unemployed for months and months and months, it's time to start looking outside of yourself for some guidance and some brutally honest insight as to why you cannot find a job. Here are 10 things you can actually do right now to start seeing some action.
1) Sometimes it's just a simple oversight - I can't even count how many times someone has complained to me about not getting calls for interviews only to find that their phone number on their resume is incorrect. Another killer: typos on your resume. Everyone believes they have thoroughly checked their resume for mistakes, but if you don't know the difference between "there" and "their" and "they're" - you're not going to know you're doing it wrong. Seek out the "obvious" flaws.
2) But it could also be the case that you're not up to date on the technological skills required to compete - taking a class or joining a group to improve your skillset can be key, and can also help build your own confidence.
3) Read. Even if you're not much of a reader. If you're really not into reading, get audiobooks. I recommend a few books here if you don't know where to start. Visit your local library or spend some time in your local bookstore.
4) Talking to family and friends often does not yield much of a result because a person's inner circle generally sees the best in you, and also can't understand why you're having such a hard time. The people who love you also just don't want to hurt you, and may hold back out of concern for your ego. Talk to someone objective - a single session with a career coach can go a long way and help jumpstart a stalled job search.
5) Clean yourself up. Do you know someone who doesn't seem to know that he has bad B.O. or disgustingly yellow teeth? Seriously - give yourself a mini-makeover. Change your habits, try new hygiene products (switch your deodorant, get some white strips!), invest in a new outfit (even if it's a new used outfit from a thrift store), iron all of your clothes even if you think you look fine. At the very least, you'll feel like you look polished and professional.
6) Switch up your resume - if you can't afford a professional resume writer, ask a friend for some help. Offer to cook your friend dinner or look over her resume in exchange.
7) Stay busy. I can't over-emphasize how important this is. Strategic volunteering can be your best friend. It can help fill gaps on your resume and expand your network.
8) Speaking of expanding your network - expand your network. Build your LinkedIn. Reach out to former coworkers and classmates. Conduct informational interviews.
9) Stay positive. I know it sounds cheesy (and almost impossible if you've been out of work for a long time), but nobody wants to hire Debbie Downer and nobody wants to hear about what a hard life you have. Employers hire people who they feel will contribute to the workplace - in terms of work ethic, skills and knowledge, AND attitude.
10) Consider changing your objective (and I don't mean the "objective" on your resume - I mean your actual objective). First, let's just say that your objective cannot simply be "to get a job". That's what every job seeker wants. Maybe it's time to reevaluate the types of jobs you're targeting. Are you shooting too high and applying for jobs that you're not qualified to do? Are you selling yourself short and applying for jobs you are way overqualified to do (more on this later)? Are you looking for a job in a dying industry? Sometimes you need to make a career change because jobs are changing.
A recent NY Times "Career Couch" article has some great advice on making the best of being unemployed while searching for a new job. I want to expand on some of the key points a little bit.
-Remembering you do still have something to offer - this could be your insight on changes in the industry or your take on an industry-related article. Sharing information on LinkedIn is a really easy, no-pressure way to keep your name in the minds of your connections, but sending an article to someone who you think would be genuinely interested is a great way to make a bit more of a personal connection.
-Staying active in a consulting, part-time, or volunteer capacity within your industry is also really important -- not just because it keeps you busy and helps fill in gaps on your resume, but because it keeps you plugged in and offers a natural way to continue expanding your network.
-It's also key to remember that while you want to be honest about your current employment status and reasons for leaving your last position, you don't want to come across as being too desperate. Employers are (understandably) wary of hiring someone who is just looking for any job - they want to hire someone who really wants their particular job. If you're giving off a "I just need a job" vibe, you might scare off an employer who is concerned you'll end up jumping ship for a better job when it comes along.
After speaking with a client who has just entered the informational interviewing stage of her job search, I thought it would be a great quick blog post to introduce the general concept, conversation topics, and outcomes.
The informational interview is really just a form of field research. The term was coined by Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute (and lots of other career books). Ideally, you'll be conducting your informational interviews in person, but you'll often find yourself using the same techniques on the phone or by email. This conversation should be pretty short - 20 minutes is a good general target. Much more than that and you'll be asking too much of your contact... which brings me to the next point...
During the informational interview, you're not asking for any favors. Not outright, and not right now, anyway. This is the time that you're asking people about something they have expertise in - most people are happy to talk about something they know well and have been successful at, so you don't want to throw off that comfortable conversation feeling by appearing too eager. Of course, you're not only giving them a chance to talk, you're getting to learn about a topic from an insider, and you're building your network for down the road.
The best way to introduce yourself to your contact is by showing that you already know (at least a quick Google search worth of) something about the contact. It could be as simple as saying, "My colleague recommended I contact you regarding..." or "I read an article you wrote on...". And then one of the next things you say should make it clear that you're not asking for a job. One of the things you are asking for at this point, will be directions to the next step. There was a great New York Times Shifting Careers blog about it a few years ago with a list of questions you might want to ask during your conversation. You could ask your contact who else would be good to speak with, if there are any books you should read on the industry, what professional organizations are active in the field, how he or she got into his or her position, etc. (Oh, and you should absolutely be taking notes during all of this!) You're not only talking about what's great about this type of work - you're also addressing the difficult parts. By the time you're done, you should have a solid list that can serve as an outline for the next steps you'll take. If you still think this might be the right path for you, you'll have a good idea of who to contact next. You might find out that it's not exactly what you imagined, but there's another related job that could be more up your alley, so you can also ask your contact about that.
After your conversations, be sure to send quick thank you notes to your contacts. This will not be the last they hear from you, though! About a month after your informational interview, you should send your contact another thank you note - this one will be a bit longer, and will tell your contact what you did following your conversation. You might say that you went on to talk to other industry experts your contact had suggested, you might say you went to an industry meeting or job fair, you might say you read a recommended book or article. Not only does this second thank you note show your contact that you really did value his or her advice and that you're really committed to this pursuit, it also gives your contact a great opportunity to give you more contacts or tell you about anything that has come up in the last month. And it's further solidifying your connection by keeping you fresh in your contact's mind. Next time a job does open up, you could be the one they call!
1. What do you really want to do? Start with what you absolutely know you would love, and narrow down the focus to get to a clear picture of what this job means. A big picture focus would be "a teacher" - a more specific goal is "a science teacher at a magnet school in the city."
2. What are the reasons you want to do it? Sticking with the above example, a good teacher wants to teach because he believes in education as a value, he thinks he can be a positive influence on a child, he wants to help his community, he has a depth of knowledge in a certain field, etc.
3. What do you get out of it? This is really about what you get out of it - the things you really value. It's not always about money or prestige - a teacher might not make as much as a lawyer, but he has summers off. This is the time to consider how what you get matches up with your values. If your real dream is to spend more time at home with your family, a high-stress, long-hours, high-income job probably won't make you feel really satisfied.
4. What do you need to get it? Maybe you need a certain degree or certification. Maybe you need a really good suit. This isn't about all the things you can get after you make your career change - this is about the immediate things you need to position yourself as a highly competitive candidate.
5. Who can help you get what you want? Now that you've considered the above four questions, think about who you know who has done something similar, or who you know who knows somebody who has done it. You won't know if you don't ask - tell people specifically what your goal is so they can have a better idea of what's involved. Using social media to pass information around at this point is a great way to expand your knowledge base. This step naturally leads to very useful networking - becoming associated with a community of people who are in your target field is the best way to find a job you'll love.
I'm a certified career coach based in Philadelphia. I started my own practice to help people land their dream jobs and achieve their individual definitions of success.
I also keep this blog with my musings on changes in the employment landscape, advice for job seekers, links to other career-related articles, and anything else that catches my interest.