Now that I have a position in the field, professional setting, and salary that I wanted, I wanted to share what I learned over the nearly 18 months I was unemployed or working at a salary significantly lower than what I had been earning, but not underemployed because it was full-time.
1. Use Your Network
Of the six companies that contacted me about a job, only two did so without my having an inside connection, and with one of those there was a kind of connection (the company reached out to a friend, who forwarded the email to me, and I forwarded it back to the company).
Of the six, only one spoke with me once, every other one called me back, which tells me I was probably qualified for many more that I never heard back from.
Getting the door open is critical to employment right now. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to let people know you are out of work, ask them to help you find a new position by making some introductions.
2. Pursue New Paths in Parallel with Old Ones
I continued to apply for positions similar to the one I had, but I also assessed my skills and interests and determined which field I wanted to work in. I then identified the skills, experiences, and reasons why I was ideal to work in this ‘new’ field. If ever you are going to reinvent yourself, doing it while out of work is the time – you have nothing to lose and you have the extra time.
3. Keep a Routine
Keep a ‘work-like’ routine, but also take advantage of the time you have with your family. I continued to get up and take the kids to school, used the morning hours to reply to email, networked, and pursued some projects to keep me busy in addition to my search for a job.
4. Be Productive
Particularly when you’ve been out of work a long time, you need to be productive. Keep your skills up and have something to say when you are asked what you have been doing. I was able to demonstrate many skills through the work I did as a volunteer or pro-bono during the time I was out of work and I believe this made me a stronger candidate when interviewing.
5. Be Resilient
You have to believe and be positive, despite how frustrating it can be. I was fortunate in that when I was down, my wife was there to give me a boost and vice versa. Without a question, the social and emotional stress, leads to physical stress and it is easy over time to blow-up over little things. Being open with one another and supportive is critical. We gave up and lost a lot during the time I was out of work. It was very nice to be able to begin my new position before Christmas and celebrate it with my family by adding a few extra gifts as thanks for sticking it out with me and understanding.
If you are out of work, I hope this post helps, and if you are employed, take the extra time to help someone who isn’t as fortunate at the moment. I have a half-dozen friends who remain out of work, and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for them.