'In my 30 years working I have had two extended periods 'between jobs', and I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I'd like to share with you.
Both occasions I've been out of work have been in the last 10 years, and my personal experience of each was rather different.
Being between gigs is more common these days than it once was, of course. I'd been made redundant twice before many years ago, but fortunately ended up falling straight into another job.
The first time I found myself without work, I didn't manage things that well, and I'll admit to showing early signs of depression after six-months or so on the lookout. I self-medicated with St John’s Wort, as I wanted to avoid the what I perceived to be the stigma of having to admit to being treated for depression.
In retrospect, I was rather one dimensional in how I went about finding a new position. My idea of networking was to call a few friends and, after that failed, I quickly gave up. I tended to rely upon internet job sites, and spent a lot of time scouring email job lists. You can probably imagine how the seeds of depression quickly took root; it was all about rejection, helplessness, futility and little support.
I have to say, however (and with no little pride), that my most recent experience between jobs proved to be very different, and resulted in a positive outcome much more quickly.
Here's what I've learned from my experiences:
Be open in your attitude to opportunities.
It's easy to define your potential just in terms of the roles you have undertaken, eg 'I used to be a (enter last job title), so that's what I need to look for now'. Look at your skills and strengths and see how they can apply to related opportunities. You don't need to attempt to change career, but you may benefit if you widen your thinking. Even if someone offers you something you don’t want, listen and steer it around to explore opportunities you do.
Have a half page CV
The quality of my CV has ebbed and flowed. I recently realised that continual customisation (to fit it to each opportunity) had left it rather flabby, with key information being relegated too far back. You don’t really have a have two or three page CV any more, but rather a half page document with other information attached. As recruiters have less and less time to review resumes, if you don't make the right impression with the right information in the first few lines, then you will likely miss out.
Be aware of and develop your brand
This sounds simple, but can be hard work. Here's a few tips:
Get a decent email address; firstname.lastname@example.org is wrong in so many ways!
Put a sensible voicemail greeting on your phone
Have some professional-looking personal cards printed - they aren't expensive
Think about blogging
Build an effective profile on Linkedin and other networking and recruitment sites
Contribute to relevant discussions and forums demonstrating your knowledge and approach
Be sure to invest in your own future
Take time to build your knowledge and influence
Develop key network contacts, by meeting them for lunch or after work
Join discussion groups, especially ones you can get to physically, but also online gatherings in areas where you either already have expertise or want to develop it. It is amazing what rubs off just through mixing with experts
'No' is only the end if you let it be
Most people want to help and don't like saying 'No' to someone in need. This means that they probably want to say 'Yes' to your next request. This could be asking for any other good contacts, permission to contact them again at some point, feedback on your CV, etc.
Judge the right time to make contact again, though. Reach out too frequently, and you can exhaust their goodwill; too seldomly and you may well have been forgotten.
This is a rather personal belief, but if in my efforts to find a role I spotted an opportunity to help someone else, then I always did so. I expected nothing in return, but believed it would make it more likely that someone else would help me along the way. Of course when it worked, it also strengthened my network - which is no bad thing.
Keep smiling, even when it hurts
If it looks as if you've lost faith in yourself, why should others invest in you ? Keeps smiling, continue to take care about how you dress, and behave. We all have down times, but when you do, be careful. Spend it with close friends who know you and who may be able to lift you.
In summary, I may have been lucky second time around, but then again maybe I made my own luck. Looking back, I do think that I embraced all seven of these ideas more positively second time around and it helped…. a lot'.
image: © John Nakamura Remy
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