By Hannah Morgan
No one who has been unemployed expects it to last very long. The reality is that you will be looking for work longer than you want. You can't control the fact that it is taking an average of 24.9 working days to fill a position, according to Dice Holdings August hiring report. However, you can control what you are doing to be more effective in your approach to job searching.
1. Nail down the basics. The people you know want to help you – they just don't know how. The best thing you can do to help them help you is to provide three pieces of vital data. First, state the specific types of jobs you are most interested in. Second, know which companies you want to work for. And third, be able to communicate why you are great at what you do. (In other words, perfect your elevator pitch.)
2. Reach out. Be purposeful in your outreach. Create a list of everyone you know and systematically contact people on your list to ask for help and advice. Sending out a blanket email won't generate the type of response you are looking for. Your contacts want to help, but an impersonal plea for help falls lower on the list of priorities. Personalize your outreach one email or phone call at a time.
3. Get connected. Volunteer, and join professional associations and networking groups for job seekers. Connecting with unemployed and employed professionals helps you stay active and engaged in what's happening in your community and in your field of work. When you volunteer, you are actually killing two birds with one stone. First, it provides you with a feeling of value and worth to help others. Second, you will be interacting with like-minded volunteers and group leaders who can become networking resources.
4. Connect online. Before you begin connecting with people on LinkedIn, be sure your profile is up to date. Once you've done this, begin connecting with new contacts, as well as past colleagues, friends and others you know. Your LinkedIn network should represent your real-life network, so start building it. Learn how to use LinkedIn to stay in touch with your network, and mine it for valuable data.
5. Polish your résumé. This is 2014, and résumé rules have changed since you last updated your document. Do your research and consult expert resources. Once you have created a résumé that positions you as a fit for the perfect job, begin using it. Be sure to adapt it for every job you apply for. How do you know if it's working? If you are applying for jobs, and your phone is ringing off the hook, don't change a thing. Otherwise, go back to the drawing board. Share it with trusted colleagues, and ask for feedback. One word of caution: Everyone has an opinion about résumés, and the recommendations will sometimes contradict one another.
6. Take care of you. As the flight attendants say, "Put your oxygen mask on first so you can better assist those around you." This means you should eat well, exercise and spend time doing the things you enjoy.
7. Consider plan B. Don't wait until your unemployment or severance runs out to begin creating a backup plan. Start today. What will you do when you are one month away from the end of your unemployment? How will you generate income? Will you take a temp job or work in retail? Would you be willing to take a job outside your current city? Or would you consider starting your own business? It is never too early to begin actively pursuing your plan B options.
8. Find someone to hold you accountable. You will become discouraged – that is just part of the process. You will need the support of someone who can give you a kick in the pants and who will listen to you objectively. Of all the actions mentioned, this may be the most important. When you identify and use an accountability partner, you feel rejuvenated and regain your momentum. You also have an external source of motivation and a fresh perspective to draw from.
9. Keep an open mind. This isn't the same as being open to any opportunities. You should stay focused on the type of job you want. Keeping an open mind means you listen without judgment and don't make assumptions. If a past colleague presents you with a job opportunity you don't think is a fit, don't shut them down. Ask questions, and understand why they are making this recommendation. Likewise, if someone you know suggests you should speak with one a contact, ask why and how you both would benefit from meeting.
10. Move with a sense of urgency. Each day you are unemployed, it becomes more difficult to feel secure in your abilities. Rejection and dead ends have a way of eroding your self-confidence. The best cure for these feelings is to do something – anything – that makes you feel productive and successful. Focus on the small wins, such as getting an email response, finding a contact name inside a company you want to work for and attending a networking meeting.
11. And remember the other stuff. The list of things to do while job searching is endless. You need to develop relationships with recruiters, find the right job boards for the type of work you are looking for, write solid cover letters and thank-you notes, master the art of small talk and thousands of other things that will push you outside your comfort zone. Take a deep breath, and mentally prepare for this marathon.
Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.
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