Q. I lost my job three weeks ago and am still upset and devastated. I’ve updated my resume, but haven’t done much else. I need some motivation and hope. Have any? -GP
A. You need to take some time to clear your head, but don’t wallow in grief much longer. You’re not alone–one in 10 Americans are unemployed, and unemployment rates are up in many countries around the world. Don’t overly worry–you will land another job if you wish to do so. I’ve also been unemployed before, and have some idea what’s going through your mind at this stage, so here’s my advice:
File for unemployment benefits. It’s not a lot of money, but every little bit helps at this stage. You paid for these benefits through your withholding taxes; it’s not “welfare.”
Take a vacation. You’re already three weeks into what I mean by vacation: take time to clear your head, get away, read fiction, watch old movies. If you have a decent nest egg, take a real vacation. Getting away physically and mentally isn’t a luxury, it’s necessary to bring about a clearer focus on the future.
Cut expenses. The average new job search takes at least four months–much longer for senior-level positions. For those employed, the traditional rule of thumb has been to have six months of income in savings as a nest egg for unemployment or other unplanned life events.
Make a job search action plan. Devote a minimum of four hours a day to your job search, ideally make it your full-time job. Start by researching prospective employers of interest to you, but don’t rule out switching career focus if you’ve always been curious about other fields.
Develop new skills. Determine what employers are seeking, and seek experiences and training that build your skill levels–especially in digital and social media.
Network. Tap family members, friends and business colleagues for introductions that will expand your network. There will be a lot of dead ends, but make a point of trying to establish at least two new contacts a day. A good friend established a networking group in his church when his outplacement services expired. He became the ex-officio outplacement officer for nearly 30 other unemployed executives. Together, they helped each develop better resumes, cover letters, elevator speeches and networking leads.
Volunteer. Devote some time to nonprofit organizations. These experiences build skills while expanding your network.