Out of Work and Working Hard

Out of Work and working hard

Good or bad, I have always been thankful for having a job. With unemployment rates in California outperforming the national average by 2% (reaching 12.9 in June), I knew how lucky I was to have a job. No matter how hard you work and how many times you say thank you in your bedtime prayers, you are more likely to lose your job than win the lottery in California.

I became one of the unemployed on the last day of September. I gathered my final checks with the rest of my released coworkers and took my box of personal belongings home.

Much like birds raised in the shelter of a preserve, hand fed for too long by well meaning tenders, we fluttered in fear at the large world we had been released into. Tears and anger expressed in a fearful “what do I do now?”

That is the question that all of us deal with. You look at the unemployment numbers and wonder if you will also be one of those who remain unemployed for one, two or more years. I think of my friends who were laid off in 2009, still searching for a new job. It is a scary time to be out of a job. What do we do now?

I have worked harder now that I am out of work than ever before. The amount of energy put into resumes and searching for positions that are right for me is equal to the energy I put into a power point or planning large-scale management meetings. The phone interviews, the in-person interviews, and the preparation and research all for interview require the same amount of energy as stepping on stage in a one-woman show. After each performance, I find myself depleted and worn out. After three weeks of interviewing nonstop, I find myself battling flu-like symptoms and extreme fatigue.

I am not at all sure I have any tips to share for those of you hunting for jobs. I have only been at this for a month. However, I know I have learned a few things.

  • Do not wait. Take action. Work at finding a job like you would if employed. Every day I got up at 8AM (okay who am I joking, I got up at 5AM because I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep) and started looking for a job.
  • Interview with agencies first. Get them looking FOR you. Permanent placement agencies and then Temp agencies. If you need to work temp jobs until the perm placement comes along, you will have already signed up. You do not want to be interviewing with agencies when you could be interviewing for actual jobs. Agencies first then focus on perm placement. The more agencies looking the better. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket my friend.
  • Tailor each resume and cover letter to the job you are applying. The extra time you take will pay off in the end. Machine-gunning 50 resumes out to every job is likely to receive little if no response. Slow down and aim your resume and cover letter to each target like an expert sniper.
  • Apply online for unemployment the moment you are laid off. They will make you wait a week. So don’t delay.
  • When things get stressful remember BRASS:
    • Breathe – breathe in and out four times. Imagine all the stress leaving your body
    • Relax – physically imagine each muscle in your body getting soft and calm.
    • Aim – Aim at what you need to do next. Not MACRO – NOT “get a job”. Go specific. Look at craigslist jobs and send out five perfect resume submissions. Not “Get some money” but – sign up with three temp agencies. Specific actions you can do now, today, this minute. Make a list!
    • Stop – Stop activities that encourage the depression and anxiety that being out of a job will create. Do not sit home and flip through the TV fretting – go for a walk. Do not sit at your computer after you have sent out your resumes for the day but learn something new. Write a story, bake some cookies. Do not obsessively sit at your computer hitting refresh on the job listing. It leads to madness. I know…I am still battling the urge to hit refresh as I type this.
    • Shoot – pull the trigger on the list you made above. Do it now. Okay not now but as soon as you’re done reading my blog.
  • Interviewing
    •  Get a good night’s sleep (if at all possible).
    • Do not drink a load of coffee before interviewing. Cracked out candidates do not impress. If you find that you are adding the word “UM” in between each word, you can’t sit still and you’re sweating a lot – you have had too much coffee.
    • Eat a good breakfast/lunch, but know your body. I avoid greasy food, difficult to digest food and anything that makes bad breath. I tend to stick to oatmeal or a wheat English muffin with peanut butter because I know that makes my stomach happy.
    • Dress appropriate for the atmosphere. If it’s a blue jean job but they don’t stress “Dress Casually” to you when confirming the interview, wear a suit. If you don’t know, wear a suit. If they do say “Dress Casually” – ditch the suit jacket but go in wearing slacks and a nice shirt. No matter how much a job says they don’t care what you wear, first impressions count.
    • Arrive early so you can sit in your car, clear your head and relax (BRASS).
    • Be prepared. What do you want this company to know about you? What is your story? What skills do you want to stress? Prepare this all before hand in your mind. This is a sales call and you are both the salesperson and the product.
    • Smile. A smile is much better than the perfect suit. A person will remember your smile long past remembering your clothing.
    • BRASS each question. Breathe, relax, aim at your answer, stop the mind chatter, shoot – answer the question.
    • Remember the ear to mouth ratio: God gave you two ears and one mouth. So you should listen 50% more than you speak.
    • When the interview is done, thank them, then go home, and relax. Do not obsess. Let it go. The call back will happen. If they don’t call, there is a reason. BRASS – find something to do next.
  • Do not stop trying until you succeed. Keep looking for the job, every day until you find one. As a writer, I will receive 100’s if not 1000’s (I hope not) of rejections before I am published. The difference between a writer and a published author is a published author doesn’t give up. To quote my favorite politician “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up” ~ Churchill.

I am still waiting for my first unemployment check. All of my interviews have wound to a close and I sit at home wondering if I will get the call today. “Yes – you have a job” or “We have decided to go with someone else.” I look at craigslist, weary already of the process and wonder if I should start sending out resumes again. I have interviewed at my dream job. I have interviewed at companies where I’d love to work. I have interviewed at places that would pay the bills. I have written a blog about all of the above and now I am wondering… “What do I do now?” Breathe.

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