Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top Ten (plus 2) List for the Newly Unemployed

Author:  Richard F. Ober, Jr.
             General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Isles, Inc.,
             Former Co-Facilitator, Trinity Jobseekers

There are many books about how to organize your job search, prepare your resume, interview effectively, etc.; fewer with practical tips about how to live while you’re ‘in transition.’ Here are some I’ve learned (a) from being in transition for 37 months, (b) as a co-facilitator of Trinity Jobseekers, and (c) from friends and counselors.

1. Run, don't walk, away from any 'executive career management' company that tries to pressure you into putting down $3,000-$10,000 up front because 'they have access to the secret job market,' etc. Nobody I know has been happy with any of these operations; several have sued. I regard them as predators on the unfortunate. There are many career coaches that work on an hourly basis.

2. Apply promptly for unemployment. Remember, you only get unemployment if the employer terminated you, constructively or directly. In New Jersey, if you have any interest in additional state-paid education, apply immediately. If you do, your 26 weeks of unemployment may be extended; if you wait until later, it won't. Applying on the internet: https://wnjpin.state.nj.us/uiclaim/home_full.html.

3. Continue your health insurance. I’m not an expert on whether COBRA or one of the new insurance exchange policies under ObamaCare is the better deal. Find an expert.

4. Join a Professional Service Group. PSGs are community programs providing networking opportunities, training workshops and enrichment seminars. Search PSGNJ on the web.

5. Communicate honestly about your unemployment status to family and friends. This will help you manage their expectations about what you can do, how much you can spend etc. during this time. If you communicate up front, it will minimize potential negative feelings (disappointment, embarrassment) that you may face later on when you have to say no, or we can't. Also, they can help you network.

6. Live like you are unemployed. Cut back on all discretionary spending immediately. Don't put it off. You don't know how long it will take to land the right job. Review every monthly bill and consider cancelling the service. Shop for non-perishables at Costco and 99 cent-type stores. Pay off credit card debt and live on debit cards. If you have a home equity credit line, draw the full amount down and bank it for emergencies. Sell your ‘extra’ stuff on E-Bay. If debt payments are going to be a problem contact the lenders ASAP rather than missing payments. Watch out for ‘non-profit’ debt counseling agencies that advertise heavily on TV and radio; they are usually fronts for for-profit operations and many are under investigation by the IRS. See http://www.nfcc.org/ for your local legitimate credit counseling agency. Make sure that the organization is on the approved Justice Department list http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved.htm, or the HUD list http://www.state.nj.us/dca/hmfa/consu/owners/revers/hudappage.html

7. Set up a professional search office and plan. A job search is a full-time job. Promptly create a location for your search with lack of distractions, computer, printer, high-speed internet, telephone (consider a dedicated line for job search), fax, answering machine (consider telephone company voice mail service as an alternative that can be easily checked remotely). If you don't have outplacement or a good location at home, or can’t afford some of these items, consider a Professional Service Group (see #4 above), or even your local library. Reference librarians are a great resource for the unemployed. Make sure you have a professional-sounding email address and voice mail message. Free email is available from Yahoo and Hotmail and often from your college, among others. Get those interview outfits out of the closet and make sure they fit and look good. Set up a contact and application management system and adhere to it. Have a written marketing plan with goals that are within your control (‘10 calls per day’, not ‘2 interviews next week’).

8. Business Cards. Get professional looking business cards ASAP. You can get them from printers, office supply stores, or for a small charge from VistaPrint www.vistaprint.com. Put three or four key bullets, a mini-resume, about yourself on the back - to help people who come away from a networking session with many business cards remember who you are and what your skills are.

9. Keep up your morale. Make time for (free or inexpensive) fun, as a reward for completing job search plan goals. Don't pick up any bad habits. It is easy to over eat, drink and just not take care of yourself. Stay healthy and fit both in mind and body. Make time to exercise. Get yourself in the best shape of your life. Volunteer for charitable activities, to help others, which will provide networking opportunities as well as improve your morale. If you are depressed, get professional counseling. Medication may be advisable. Put together a Job Search Work Team of three-to-eight people who meet regularly to provide support, share ideas, and hold each other accountable. Your spouse is not the person to bear all of your emotions in this situation. Affirm yourself, but get over yourself. Talking out loud to yourself in the bathroom mirror is not a symptom of going crazy; it’s a positive mental exercise. Every day is “game day.” Psych yourself up. You, better than anyone else, know your exceptional strengths and attributes and you can affirm them to yourself. Try it for a week and see if it doesn’t adjust your attitude. At the same time, nobody – nobody – finds you as interesting as you do. Do not carry on about your problems or how great you are to anyone else.

10. Develop A, B and C Plans. Develop several alternative plans to re-employment at the outset. Execute them in an order so that one doesn't eliminate trying others subsequently. Write them down and review them regularly. EX: If you don’t (A) find another job in a big company, you’ll (B) look at small local companies, (C) start or buy your own business, or (D) become a consultant or substitute teacher. Consulting or temporary employment while you’re looking gets you in the door at potential employers and expands your network while keeping income coming in.

11. Network. Network with employed people as well as other unemployed. Networking should start with how you can help the other person. Have a list of target companies that people can help you connect with. Consider preparing a one-page, one-side networking sheet that has contact information and a very brief professional profile and lists potential job titles, target companies, geographic and any other limitations, and academic credentials. Become active in your industry professional organizations. Attend meetings, conventions, seminars in your job field. Many organizations will offer free or reduced fees to the unemployed. It never hurts to ask. Accentuate the positive in your networking relationships. Attitudes are infectious.

12. Maintain connections at your former employer. Don't burn your bridges. If permitted, bring home a company phone book, contact information and non-confidential samples of your work, but know what agreements about confidentiality, non-competes, etc. you've signed and don't violate them (but you can ask for waivers). If there have been mass layoffs, set up a group web site so those laid off can keep in touch.

Good Luck!

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