It’s normal to feel hurt, vulnerable, or angry after losing a job. The good news is that despite the stress of job loss and unemployment, there are many things you can do to take control of the situation and maintain your spirits. You can get through this tough time by taking care of yourself, reaching out to others, and focusing on your goals. Losing your job can also be an opportunity to take stock of your life, rethink your career goals, and rediscover what truly makes you happy.
Jobs are available, but everyone is moving very cautiously and the competition is strong. It is a buyer’s market, so adjust your expectations accordingly. Interview cycles will be longer, salaries will be lower, benefits leaner, and companies less flexible. Don’t expect companies to acknowledge your application.
Over half of all job openings are learned about through contacts. Your next job will probably come through a personal contact. Anyone might be the right contact. But make it easy for others to help you. Despite their best intentions, if you don’t stay in touch with them, they will forget. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Unfortunately, many job seekers are hesitant to take advantage of networking because they’re afraid of being seen as pushy, annoying, or self-serving. But networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships. As you look for a new job, these relationships can provide much-needed feedback, advice, and support.
Take a Hard Look
Be honest. What did you do well and what poorly? What can you really do, and what do you need help learning? If you really hated your job, maybe it is time to change. If your office skills are out of date, take an on-line course to use common office programs. It will make you that much more competitive when you are tested if a job shows up.
When the jobs are scarce and there are lots of people competing for every job, it puts people looking for work in a frustrating and difficult situation. It’s hard not to lose hope. In this stage, some people withdraw and use more drugs and alcohol. Having a job search plan and being in a Job Club can help a lot. It’s also important to stay in touch with friends and family.
New Jobs, New Skills
Look around at growth jobs. Do you have the skills to do them? If not, use the time and benefits you have in order to get the skills you need. For people who have been in the same job or workplace for a long time, the hiring process was much simpler when they hired on. The job market is much more competitive now, especially for family wage jobs. The whole way of looking for work has changed, and the application process can be much more formal and complicated than it used to be.
Use the Resources We Have
Working Solutions has information. Your tax money has paid for computers, brochures, and counselors. Use those resources to the fullest extent. You still have to go out and do a lot of work, but we can help, guide and help you learn from experience built up over years of layoffs.
Sooner or later, unemployment benefits end. Waiting until that last month to find a new job is just about like what your kids do when they write their term papers the night before. It doesn’t work. You don’t have to jump at the first job you can see; but waiting to start your search almost dooms you to failure.
Working Solutions Centers
Working Solutions Centers are a centralized area where all of the information you will need and as many of the services possible are in one convenient location. Most centers will provide information on unemployment and veterans’ benefits, the labor market and prevailing wages, retraining and education opportunities, and on eligibility for other programs and services available in the community. Some centers may also include child care, transportation, career planning, language and math brush-up classes, and a variety of retraining classes.
Job Search Services
Whether you are in a One Stop Center or another agency providing services for laid off workers, you will usually find a full range of job search services. If you are looking for another job immediately, there will be information about available jobs that will include hot lines and lists of employers as well as job boards with job listings and direct referrals. You may also find resume writing workshops and help with interviewing. In many places you will be able to join a Job Club.
Most services have information on programs like food stamps, welfare, food banks, and heating and utility subsidies. No one likes to think about having to use these services, but it can happen. You paid for it with your tax money. Use what you need when you need it.
Get Your Financial House in Order
Figure out your monthly expenses and how you’re going to cover them for the next six to 12 months. Your ability to survive financially will mean more in 3 months than you can imagine.
Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation
First, find out where you stand.
- What are the bills you must pay (food, rent or mortgage, utility bills, car expenses, insurance)?
- What personal expenses can you eliminate or postpone (dining out, entertainment new cars, new investments)?
Record all incoming money.
- Unemployment compensation
- Severance pay
- Income of spouse/children
- Interest from saving accounts
- Union assistance
- Dividends from investments
- Income tax refunds
Make a list of all your assets and their current value.
- Funds in bank accounts
- Cash value of home, car, and other major possessions
- Pension plan
- Investments (stocks, bonds, CDs, mutual funds)
- Life insurance policies with cash value
Leave your charge cards at home. If you have major local creditors, immediately call your creditors and explain your situation. If you anticipate difficulties in paying them, arrange an alternate payment plan or seek advice on a consolidation loan. Take the initiative. Don’t wait until you’ve fallen far behind on your payments. Always try to pay something.
Pay cash for everything. This includes groceries, gasoline and personal items. By using cash, you will avoid accumulating incoming bills.
Dealing with Creditors
- If you have a mortgage, talk with the mortgage bank about renegotiating your payments.
- If you are a tenant, talk to your landlord about the rent. Don’t wait until a crisis arises. People are more likely to be understanding if you communicate with them.
A Few Other Helpful Hints
- Substitute generic products for brand name products.
- Buy nonperishable food items in bulk, when they are priced better.
- Use discount coupons.
- Wash and dry full loads of laundry to conserve power and water.
Financial Planning Form
Fill out the guide below from the U.S. Department of Labor, or any other type of planner. The more you know what your financial situation is, the easier it will be to get through these next few months.
The stress of losing a job is like the stress of a death in the family or a divorce. It’s not surprising that people sometimes are depressed or angry about losing their jobs. Losing a job causes physical and mental stress that can emerge in a variety of physical or emotional ways. When or if it happens, it’s not weakness. It’s being human. The best way you can combat stress is to take care of your physical and emotional health. It is important to eat healthy food, get adequate rest and stay physically active. There are also relaxation exercises you can do to help alleviate stress.
The best way to deal with all the losses that come with losing a job is to recognize that they are real and painful, and to begin making plans for the future, whether that future means finding a job, retraining, changing careers – or all of the above. One of the hardest changes is starting over. The job that was familiar and seemed secure is gone. It’s hard to face going back into a classroom for retraining or starting on a new job. You may have to brush up on skills you haven’t used in awhile, or learn to study and take tests again. When you are on a new job, starting over means being a new hire, being on probation, and having the lowest seniority. Being anxious about starting over is normal, and it’s amazing how something as simple as talking about it can make things easier. What feels overwhelming when you face it alone becomes something you can do when you are working together with other people to come up with a plan. A “go it alone” attitude makes starting over much harder.
You Are Not Alone
When you lose your job, you want the world to stop and understand what you are going through. Hundreds of people lose jobs every year and have for the last few years. There is not a lot of sympathy left out there. A lot of people – even your friends – have known other people who lost their jobs. They will feel bad for you up to a point, but understand that in tough times, compassion fatigue is real.
You’re feeling rejected by the layoff, and it’s hard to wear a happy face. But beyond primal screaming, what choice do you have? Try not to take the job layoff personally and get to work on your rebound strategy. Studies show that job hunters with a glass-is-half-full approach get jobs more quickly.
Denial to Action
When people face changes that they have no control over, they usually go through the four classic stages of the change process: denial, resistance, exploration and commitment. These stages are perfectly natural, and you have to go through them. You can’t go from denial to commitment without going through resistance and exploration. Good pre-layoff and post-layoff services help people dig into the exploration phase. That’s where it’s possible to look at the options and start putting together plans to get you where you want to go.
Make Reasonable Plans/Take Control
Having a plan about what you will do now, and what you will do in the future is a way of taking back some of the control you have lost. The key to taking control is planning. You need a plan for today and one for tomorrow, and you need to act on them. It’s important not to just sit back and see what will happen, but to take the initiative.
If you can’t find work, do SOMETHING. Find an agency that needs volunteers. Churches always need help. Make it a point to have some fixed work that you do, even unpaid, so that you do not sit home all day. Unemployment and job loss can wear on your self-esteem and make you feel useless. Volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose. And helping others is an instantaneous mood booster. Volunteering can also provide career experience, social support, and networking opportunities.
Find a Routine
For most of us, work is the basis of our routines. Now, that is all gone. Build a new routine. But remember, you have a new full-time job now: looking for work. Treat it accordingly. Set aside certain hours to work. If you just “fit it in,” it will be much harder to accomplish anything. However, don’t sit chained to the e-mail or phone. Finding work won’t occupy all your time, and you still have a life. Get out of the house at least once a day, if only to take a walk. Work on that list of stuff that needs doing around the house. Volunteer. Exercise. See a little more of the kids. Do something other than sit at home alone. After a week or two, that will get very old and you will be hurting yourself more than helping yourself.
Cope Your Way
You will be showered with tons of advice. Pick and choose what works for you. None of us cope the same way. If holding a party to celebrate the end of your old job that you hated will help you get through this, do it. (Just don’t spend too much).
Get Your Clothes Ready
Now, while you can still afford it, make sure you have a good suit of clothes for the job interview that will come sooner or later. Looking good at an interview sends all sorts of positive messages. It may feel a little like self-indulgence to buy clothes after a layoff, but it is an investment in getting back to work.
The physical and mental discipline that comes with exercise is an important part of life. Even if you don’t want to go to the gym and hear about other people’s jobs, or you don’t see the point in running, keep up your routine. Gym time, actually, can be one way that you network so that people around you know you are looking for work. Even if you have to drop the gym membership, keep up some type of fitness routine.
The reality of the job hunt is that success depends largely upon being in the right place at the right time. When a job is coming open, co-workers suggest people they know and want to work with. If you are visible, you might come to mind. If you have stayed home in the bunker, no one is going to think of you.
Stay calm and reasoned, which will serve you well as you network, explore your options and go on interviews. You may have a hard time hearing this or believing it, but people really can “smell” desperation. To be blunt, if an employer thinks he is hiring someone who is emotionally unstable, someone else gets the job or the interview.
Education & Training
Use the resources offered by unemployment and any state or federal funding for which you are eligible to tap into educational possibilities that exist. You didn’t ask for the chance to go back to college or to go into training, but you have it. Consider what you can and can’t afford, and realize the fact that good-paying jobs require more education and training than those being phased out. It’s a big decision, but give it some thought.
Connect to Your Support Team
When you work, you think of supporting others. When you are out of work, you need to let others help you. Surviving difficult times means learning to take help, where it is offered. It also means listening to people who may have a different perspective on your career and your future. Friends and family may tell you things you should hear, but you have to listen. Tune out negativity. The economy may be difficult, but the state of the job market is always good for some people and bad for others. Don’t make the current economy into a potential self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps you from working. Being positive will not get you a job instantly, but it will keep you alert for opportunities you’ll miss when you sit at home alone in a funk.
Cut Expenses ASAP
It would be a terrible thing to get a few months down the road and realize that you can’t pay your electric bill because you couldn’t break your latte habit. Budget as if you were going to be out of work for year. Even if you do get a job, the difference in pay will mean that things don’t go back to normal soon. Pay down what debt you can while you can, so that you can minimize interest, then live paying the minimum while you stretch dollars.
Health Care/Dental Care
Look at your options for coverage and cost. Schedule everything you can while you are still covered. If that’s not possible, use Family Health Plus and other programs to provide the basics. If you are in the middle of a major project, like braces for a child, talk to the orthodontist to see what’s possible. You never will get a break unless you ask.
Expand Your Employment Options
Don’t be too picky about accepting part-time, consulting or freelance work. Of the 7.1 million workers employed part time in November, 1.5 million said that a part-time job was the only work they could find, according to the Labor Department. Although the bulk of holiday hiring has already been completed, looking for seasonal employment is still a good place to start.
Call for Job Hunt Reinforcements
With so much competition for available jobs, it’s time to pull out all the stops. Reach out to family, friends, former coworkers or clients and see if they know of any job openings. Use free programs like government-run CareerOneStop.org to freshen up your resume and research new careers where your skills may be useful.
The experts have noted that job seekers would do well to employ some creative thinking. In today’s market, your next job might not be the same as the one from which you were let go — in function, responsibility or pay. But that may have to be OK and, in some cases, can be a positive life change. Setting expectations is key to maintaining a sense of hope. It may take a while, but your journey won’t be exactly like any one person’s. It will be your own, and reminding yourself that you are the one in control of the situation can be the key to keeping your composure.
Making the Adjustment
Surviving a Layoff When Transitioning from a Two Income Household Down to One
Determine how much money you have available to spend each month. Even with unemployment, your weekly checks will be less than before. Determine how much less. Take your husband or wife’s income and add it to your weekly unemployment benefits. How much money does your family have each month? This is important. You cannot live within your means if you don’t know what those means are.
Reduce Your Expenses
You now know your monthly income. This is how much money you have to survive each month. In terms of reducing expenses, take everything you don’t need to survive, like television, internet, or a morning cup of coffee at Starbucks. Unless on a very tight budget, you don’t need to go without. First, try cutting back. Look at your phone package. How many long distance calls do you make each month? If just one or two, eliminate long-distance and use your cell phone to make those calls. In fact, can your cell phone replace your landline phone? Do the same with internet and television. Look for cheaper alternatives.
Reduce the Cost of Food
This could easily fall into the category of cutting expenses, but there are so many money saving tips it deserves it own section. To get started, make sure you are shopping at the right stores. Take an afternoon to look at nearby stores; browse their products and prices. The grocery store you shopped at for years may not have the best prices in town. Cut your shopping down to once or twice a week to avoid impulse purchases. Most importantly, use coupons. They appear in most Saturday and Sunday newspapers. You can also use online coupon websites. Perform a standard internet search to find product websites and look for coupons posted.
If you are a parent, you likely had children in daycare. Whether it was all-day care or before and after school only, pull them out. Most daycare contracts have special exceptions for termination of service with job loss. Depending on where you live, this could save anywhere from $100 to $300 a week! When you start looking for a new job, find a part-time babysitter or rely on friends and family to watch your kids while you attend job interviews.
Only use your savings in the event of an emergency. There are many ways that you can survive a layoff when still having another full-time, working income to rely on. One mistake many unemployed workers make is spending their savings right away. Yes, a layoff is considered an emergency, but with the poor job market, there are no guarantees when you will find a new job. Don’t deplete your savings when there are other alternatives. A layoff is out of your control, but how you react to it is not.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
One of the first things you should do is give yourself some time with the impact of being laid off. If unexpected, you will likely feel more upset, shocked and disappointed than if you had some idea layoffs were coming. Even when an employee knows layoffs are in the works for the company, you may not expect that your own head could be on the chopping block.
The workplace is not a good place to express this disappointment and upset, however. Such reactions might be mistaken or misunderstood. It’s also best not to burn bridges, no matter how bitter or upset you may feel in the moment. You may need references from your manager or supervisor, and want to keep in touch with coworkers you’re close to. Ask for personal email addresses and act calmly, no matter how you may feel inside.
Get the Information
Sometimes in our shock and upset at the news of a layoff, we forget to listen or to get all the information we need. Is there a severance package or a benefits package I get to leave with? What about my family’s health insurance? Will the company help me with finding new work or offer any kind of resume service? What about job references? Do I have to return the company laptop that I use at home? If you can’t handle getting the information in the moment or feel overwhelmed, not to worry. Employers generally provide the information in a letter form as well, and your HR personnel can answer any follow-up questions you may have via email or phone. If your employer offers you nothing, you may be in line at the unemployment office to look into unemployment benefits paid for by the government.
Regroup & Reframe
Don’t let your disappointment and upset turn into a new pessimistic outlook on your life or career, or into a full-blown depressive episode. Therapists have a technique they call “reframing.” It basically means taking a negative situation, thought or feeling and looking at it from a different perspective for some positive aspects. Being laid off is a time to regroup in your life and especially in your career. This is a time to reassess your career path and make sure you’re still doing something you have an interest in doing. Even in a bad economy, you need to consider your own longer-term happiness. This may help you decide between two job opportunities in the future, one that keeps you on your current path or another that may open up a different set of opportunities for you. A layoff may be just the ticket to get you out of the dead-end job you would’ve stayed in forever had it not occurred.
Take Care of Insurance
We often don’t think about insurance until we’re faced with a layoff and find out just how expensive it really is. You will likely be offered something called COBRA, which allows you to continue your current employer’s health benefits with one catch — you now have to pay what your employer was paying for your benefits. Be prepared for sticker shock. Most people are amazed that a family of four’s health insurance on COBRA might be as high as $1,000 or even $1,500 a month (for a single or couple, it can be anywhere from $500 to $800). When paying bills is already going to be a challenge, COBRA might be out of reach when the monthly cost of health insurance exceeds your unemployment benefits. So shop around. You may find other health insurance coverage for your family that is less expensive and not cut your benefits in any significant way. You may have to pay a higher deductible for inpatient hospital stays to achieve a lower monthly premium, so weigh the costs with what you can afford. Nowadays, there are a lot more plans available to most people at a wide range of costs.
Hit the Classifieds
Nearly all job classifieds are now online, so searching through them is far easier than it was 10 years ago. Although it might seem like nobody is hiring (and in your specific profession, that may very well be true), you should keep an eye out anyway. Jobs sometimes become available as people retire, or a company’s focus changes. Extend your search somewhat outside your profession as well, just to see what else might be available. Check out your “dream profession” as well, as that may help you make a very different decision. Some people use a layoff as an opportunity to go back to school to learn a new profession, using government grants and subsidized loans to pay for tuition. Use the unemployment resources available to you, whether through your ex-employer (such as resume writing services) or through your local government. Libraries also often offer a great set of employment and career resources.
Don’t Give Up Hope
In the months to come, as unemployment may stretch out much longer than you had wanted or anticipated, you’ll benefit from remaining as optimistic as possible. A pessimistic attitude can easily snowball into full-blown depression when job hunting, especially in a down economy when hundreds of companies are laying off hundreds of thousands of workers. It’s a tough market to be looking for a job, of that there is no doubt. However, people who stand out in such markets usually can find a way to bounce back. If you feel especially down on your luck, join a free support group or skills-building group in your local community (or online), and learn from others who’re going through similar circumstances. Although it may be hard to remember, try to keep in mind that layoffs aren’t a judgment about your own abilities, experience or skills that you bring to a position. Some days it may feel impossible to do, but try to stay positive. Although many people define their self-worth and value in this world by their job, it really isn’t everything and doesn’t have to be the defining feature of one’s life.
Coping with a Layoff
Acknowledge Your Emotions
It is normal to feel depressed following a layoff. Recognize common symptoms of stress and depression, such as inability to focus, increase or decrease in appetite or sleep patterns, or feelings of unworthiness. If you see signs that suggest you need support, take action and don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether from family, friends, or a mental health professional.
Take the Time to Assess Your Market Value
Look back over your work history and select the 3-4 most valuable and marketable skills you possess, as well as the activities you enjoyed the most, because we tend to excel at things we enjoy doing.
Create Your Story Regarding the Layoff
Be ready to answer that tough interview question as to what happened with your last job. Keep your response matter of fact and positive-focus on the skills and experiences you bring to any future job.
Prepare to Launch Your Job Search
Looking for work is a full time job. Before you begin, update your resume, draft a cover letter (to be customized for each position), line up your references, create an “elevator speech” that describes the type of job you are looking for, and begin generating lists of networking contacts. Get it all in place and then start job hunting. Remember, most jobs are not posted online or in the newspaper.
Unemployment is a stressful time for the entire family. Your family may experience adverse reactions to your job loss. For them, your unemployment means the loss of income and the fear of an uncertain future. They are also worried about your happiness. Here are some ways you can interact with your family to get through this tough time:
Do Not Attempt to “Shoulder” Your Problems Alone
Try to be open with family members even though it is hard. Discussions about your job search and the feelings you have allow your family to work as a group and support one another.
Talk to Your Family
Let them know your plans and activities. Share with them how you will be spending your time. Discuss what additional family responsibilities you can take on when your job search day is complete. Add these new responsibilities to your schedule.
Listen to Your Family
Find out their concerns and their suggestions. Perhaps there are ways they can assist you.
Seek Outside Help
Join a family support group. Many community centers, mental health agencies and colleges have support groups for the unemployed and their families. These groups can provide a place to let off steam and share frustrations. They can also be a place to get ideas on how to survive this difficult period. More information about support groups is presented later in this chapter.
Children may be deeply affected by a parent’s unemployment. It is important for them to know what has happened and how it will affect the family. However, try not to overburden them with the responsibility of too many of the emotional or financial details.
Keep an Open Dialogue with Your Children
Letting them know what is really going on is vital. Children have a way of imagining the worst when they write their own “scripts,” so the facts can actually be far less devastating than what they envision.
Coping with Stress
Stress inevitably will be part of the job search process. Here are some coping mechanisms that can help you deal with stress.
Write Down What Seems to be Causing the Stress
Identify the “stressors,” then think of possible ways to handle each one. Can some demands be altered, lessened or postponed? Can you live with any of them just as they are? Are there some that you might be able to deal with more effectively?
Deal with the most pressing needs or changes first. You cannot handle everything at once.
Establish a Workable Schedule
When you set a schedule for yourself, make sure it is one which can be achieved. As you perform your tasks, you will feel a sense of control and accomplishment.
Learn relaxation techniques, or other stress-reduction techniques. This can be as simple as sitting in a chair, closing your eyes, taking a deep breath and breathing out slowly while imagining all the tension going out with your breath. There are a number of other methods, including listening to relaxation tapes, which may help you cope with stress more effectively.
Keep in touch with your friends, even former coworkers, if you can do that comfortably. Unemployed individuals often feel a sense of isolation and loneliness. See your friends; talk with them; socialize with them. You are the same person you were before unemployment. The same goes for the activities that you may have enjoyed in the past. Evaluate them. Which can you afford to continue? If you find that your old hobbies or activities can’t be part of your new budget scheme, perhaps you can substitute new activities that are less costly.
Join a Support Group
No matter how understanding or caring your family or friends might be, they may not be able to understand all that you’re going through and you might be able to find help and understanding at a job-seeking support group. These groups consist of people who are going through the same experiences and emotions you are. Many groups also share tips on job opportunities, as well as feedback on ways to deal more effectively in the job search process.
Other Helpful Tips
Join or Start a Job Club
Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support, and job leads. You can tap into this resource by joining or starting a job club. Being around other job seekers can be energizing and motivating, and help keep you on track during your job search.
Focus on the Things You Can Control
You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or whether or not they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy on things that are out of your hands, turn your attention to things you can control during your unemployment, such as writing a great cover letter and resume tailored to the company you want to work for and setting up meetings with your networking contacts.
Keep the Job Search Under Your Own Command
This will give you a sense of control and prevent passivity from setting in. Enlist everyone’s aid in your job search, but make sure you do most of the work.
Face Your Fears & Try to Pinpoint Them
“Naming the enemy” is the best strategy for relieving the vague feeling of anxiety. By facing what you actually fear you can see how realistic your fears are.
Think Creatively, Stay Flexible, Take Risks & Don’t be Afraid of Failure
Try not to take rejection personally. Think of it as information that will help you later in your search. Take criticism as a way to learn more about yourself. Keep plugging away at the job search despite those inevitable setbacks. Most important, forget magic–what lies ahead is hard work!
If you would like additional help in planning your career, you may want to turn to public or private career counseling services which are useful for career exploration. They may help to develop comprehensive career plans. You will find them listed in your local telephone directory. These organizations use a variety of tests and instruments to assess your skills, abilities, interests and personality. Types of organizations where you can seek assistance include:
- Division of Employment Services Information offices. These offices are located throughout the country. In most states, they provide career counseling services to those who are deciding on a career or thinking about changing careers. Many of these offices also provide interactive computer systems which contain job information. These services are free.
- Local schools, community colleges and libraries. These organizations often have career counseling centers which have computerized job and career information systems. Sometimes they offer short courses on conducting a job search and offer counseling at no charge.
- College/university guidance centers. If you are graduating from a college or university, consider the services offered by your college guidance center. College guidance centers sometimes offer their services to the public for a fee.
- Non-profit organizations. Such organizations like the YMCA provide career counseling, although fees may be charged on a sliding scale. Check local social service agencies, community vocational services or religious organizations such as Catholic Social Services.
- Privately run firms. These firms provide counseling services useful in helping you decide on possible careers. However, they can be expensive and quality varies; before you select one, check with the Better Business Bureau or with friends who have used these services.
Where will the Jobs Be?
The growth rate for jobs that require higher-than-average levels of education and training is expected to outstrip the growth of jobs in general. However, it is also predicted that many companies will be downsizing and many of the positions eliminated will be in middle management. In general, growth in service-producing industries is expected to be much greater than growth in industries which produce goods. In manufacturing firms, however, employment in professional occupations is expected to grow slightly. What size companies provide you with the best chance of being hired? Surprisingly, it has been estimated that two-thirds of all jobs are in smaller companies–those with 25 or fewer employees.
How Do People Find Jobs?
Eighty percent of available jobs are never advertised, and over half of all employees get their jobs through networking, according to BH Careers International. Therefore, the people you know—friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, and former coworkers—are some of the most effective resources for your job search. The network of people that you know and the people that they know can lead to information about specific job openings that are not publicly posted. To develop new contacts, join student, community, or professional organizations. Only one-third of available openings are obtained using “formal” methods such as want ads, employment agencies, hiring halls, and civil service tests. Most job seekers probably spend too much of their time using formal methods, not realizing there are alternative methods. You must carry out an active, as opposed to a passive, job search. It is not enough to respond to leads from want ads or employment agencies. Carrying out an active search allows you to control the job search process and opens up many more job opportunities.
Tapping the Hidden Job Market
Most job openings are part of the “hidden job market.” The hidden job market consists of openings that are not yet advertised: jobs resulting from recent retirements, firings, company expansions and anticipated future openings, along with jobs which do not currently exist, but which are created for individual job seekers. Most jobs never make it as far as want ads or employment agencies; they are filled by people using direct contact methods. Employers usually use formal methods only when jobs are not filled through informal means. In order to tap the hidden job market, a job seeker should spend most of his/her search time using informal methods. Most jobs are found through personal contacts or direct contacts with employers. The following sections describe how to begin using informal methods to tap the hidden job market.
Selecting Target Companies
The first step is to compile a list of “target” companies–firms where you might like to work. The companies on the list may come from many sources. These include: Information obtained by researching the job market, personal knowledge about a company, and information obtained through networking.
Researching Your Target Companies
Find out as much as you can about each of your target companies. The information you will need includes answers to the following:
- What are the company’s products or services?
- What is the company’s status in the industry? Is the company large or small, growing or downsizing?
- What can you learn about the job you want (the job duties, salary, benefits, work environment)?
- What is the public image of the firm and what type of person “fits in?”
- What are some of the firm’s current problems?
- Which people have the power to hire you?
Use Multiple Methods
A thorough job search will use numerous methods simultaneously to uncover as many job leads as possible. One thing is true for all the approaches discussed here–the more you know about the firm and how your skills and abilities can be utilized productively in the company’s operations, the better your chances for success. Networking is the process of contacting people who can either give you information about potential job openings or introduce you to others who have this information. The ultimate goal of networking is to meet the person who has the authority to hire you for the job you want.
Most jobs are never advertised in the newspaper or listed with employment agencies. Research indicates that one of the most effective ways of finding out about jobs is by getting leads from people you know, that is, by networking. Even if most of the people you meet through networking don’t know of a job for you, talking to them about your job search can help you clarify your job goals and hone your interviewing skills. The people in your network can also give you emotional support, offer feedback on your resume and provide you with information about new careers or companies.
Types of Resumes
All of the resume styles described in books and computer programs are based on variations and combinations of two formats: reverse chronological and functional. The key to writing an effective resume is choosing the right style for you–one that emphasizes your strengths and de-emphasizes your weaknesses. Whichever resume style you choose, make sure to include examples of results that you produced that benefited your previous employer(s). Employers want to see measurable achievements. They want to know they are going to hire someone who can contribute to their organization’s bottom line.
The Reverse Chronological Resume
This format lists the jobs you’ve had by dates of employment, starting with your most recent job. The usual arrangement is: dates of employment, job title, name and address of company, a brief description of the duties performed, skills used and major ways you have benefited the company. Make sure you include all transferable skills. This format stresses what you accomplished in each of the positions you held.
- You have progressed up a clearly defined career ladder and are looking for career advancement.
- You have recent experience in the field you are seeking.
- You have a continuous work history in your field.
Do not use if:
- You have had many different types of jobs.
- You have changed jobs frequently.
- You are trying to switch fields.
- You are just starting out.
The Functional Resume
This format emphasizes your skills and accomplishments as they relate to the job for which you’re applying. Like other resume formats you should include all transferable skills. A functional resume presents a profile of your experience based on professional strengths or skill groupings. Your employment history usually follows, but in less detail than in a chronological resume.
- You have worked for only one employer, but have performed a wide variety of jobs.
- You are applying for a job that is different from your present or most recent job.
- You have little or no job experience; for example, you have recently graduated from school. Emphasize activities that demonstrate qualities such as leadership and organizational skills, at work or in organizations such as clubs or fraternities.
- You have gaps in your work history.
- You are reentering the job market after several years of freelancing, consulting, homemaking or unemployment.
Do not use if:
- Your work history is stable and continuous, because employers sometimes assume that a functional resume hides a spotty, unstable work history.
- Whichever resume format you use, keep in mind that the more unusual the appearance, the more likely it is to distract the employer from your accomplishments.
General Guide to an Effective Resume
The following suggestions apply to any type of resume. The order below is recommended, but you can be flexible:
- Heading: Your name, address, phone number and e-mail should be prominently displayed at the top of the page.
- Summary or Objective: If you use a summary, highlight your experience and accomplishments in two or three sentences. Clearly communicate the type of job you want and what you can offer to an employer. If you prefer to state an objective, make it broad enough to embrace closely related jobs, but not so broad that you appear lacking in focus or willing to take anything. This should be done in one sentence.
- Whether you choose a summary or an objective, indicate level, function and industry for the position you are seeking. Be concise but general. Use your cover letter to make your summary or objective specific to a particular employer.
- Experience: Indicate your major responsibilities. Emphasize accomplishments and measurable benefits to your former employer: situations improved, savings/earnings, new concepts adopted by firm. Achievements should he consistent with career direction, with a concentration on recent successes.
- Skills: List special skills such as specific computer programming, word processing or an ability to operate special equipment.
- Education: Start with the most advanced degree and give name and location of the institution, major and minor fields, and all career-oriented scholarships and academic awards. Include career related extracurricular activities, workshops and seminars.
- Licenses, Certifications, Publications: Include only those that are career-related, without elaboration.
- Additional Personal Data: Include only if career-related, such as memberships in associations.
- Be positive.
- Identify your relevant accomplishments. They should be quantitatively stated where appropriate. Describe how they benefited the employer.
- Have friends who know your professional accomplishments comment on your resume and suggest items you may have forgotten or perhaps dismissed as unimportant.
- Be specific. Choose words carefully; make every word count and eliminate unnecessary words.
- Use concise sentences. Use bullet entries for a clean, easy-to-read look.
- Use action verbs.
- Don’t devote space to items not directly related to the job you are seeking, such as hobbies, personal data such as height, weight and marital status or descriptions of former career jobs.
- Don’t use more than a few lines to describe your accomplishments. Keep it short. A one- or two-page resume is best. However, if you have a long work history, your resume might be longer.
- Don’t explain employment gaps.
- Don’t include references. However, a separate list of references should be available for distribution to employers on request, especially at the interview. Individuals and firms listed as a reference should be informed that a contact may be made on your behalf. On your resume, your last section might read “REFERENCES: Available upon request.”
- Don’t include salary requirements.
- Type or word-process your resume or have it professionally printed. If you use a computer printer, make sure the print is “letter quality.” Use 8 1/2″ x 11″ quality white or cream paper. If you can, use 20 Ib. weight, 100% cotton bond paper.
- Use wide margins. Single space within sections; double space between sections.
- Center or left-justify and capitalize all headings.
- Make sure your resume “looks good” – neat, readable, symmetrical and visually balanced. Stay away from needless, attention-getting visual effects.
- Proofread your resume carefully and then have someone else proofread it. Be sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation are flawless.
- Inspect your resume for clarity. Smudges and marks are unacceptable.
- Don’t use abbreviations, except for names of states.
- Action Verbs
- Action verbs give your resume power and direction. All skill statements that begin with an action verb help demonstrate to the potential employer responsibilities and initiatives you undertook on prior jobs.
Each time you mail your resume always include a cover letter stating your interest in the firm. The letter, however, should not duplicate resume information. It should briefly highlight the skills or positions you held previously that are appropriate to the position you seek. It also can be used to add additional information that you think is important to the employer.
Your cover letter should:
- Describe how your skills and abilities will benefit the company.
- Provoke the employer to read your resume.
- Request a job interview.
Elements of a Cover Letter
- Opening: Explain why you are writing. State the position you are seeking and the source of the job opening (e.g., newspaper ad, professional organization, colleague).
- Main Body: Highlight your job qualifications and link them to the firm’s needs. Show that you know something about the firm and are interested in the firm’s products or services. Explain why you chose this company. For example, you know someone who works there, you use their products or you heard about their good reputation.
- Closing. Request an interview. Suggest a specific date and time. For example: “I’ll try to contact you on Monday morning to see when you might be able to meet with me.”
Be sure to include your name, address and telephone number.
Thank the employer for his or her time and effort.
Tips on Preparing a Cover Letter
- Write an individualized cover letter for each job employer.
- Address the letter to the person you want to contact, preferably the one doing the hiring.
- Type letters on quality 8 1/2″ x 11 ” paper.
- Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Convey personal warmth and enthusiasm.
- Keep your letter short and to the point.
Keep a tickler file of the resumes you send out and follow up with a phone call. Surveys have shown that only two percent of resumes mailed to employers result in an interview. If you follow up with a phone call, the success rate jumps to 20 percent.
There are several different types of interviews which you may encounter. You probably won’t know in advance which type you will be facing. Below are some descriptions of the different types of interviews and what you can expect in each of them.
A preliminary interview either in person or by phone, in which a company representative determines whether you have the basic qualifications to warrant a subsequent interview.
In a structured interview, the interviewer explores certain predetermined areas using questions which have been written in advance. The interviewer has a written description of the experience, skills and personality traits of an “ideal” candidate. Your experience and skills are compared to specific job tasks. This type of interview is very common and most traditional interviews are based on this format.
Although the interviewer is given a written description of the “ideal” candidate, in the unstructured interview the interviewer is not given instructions on what specific areas to cover.
Multiple interviews are commonly used with professional jobs. This approach involves a series of interviews in which you meet individually with various representatives of the organization. In the initial interview, the representative usually attempts to get basic information on your skills and abilities. In subsequent interviews, the focus is on how you would perform the job in relation to the company’s goals and objectives.
After the interviews are completed, the interviewers meet and pool their information about your qualifications for the job. A variation on this approach involves a series of interviews in which unsuitable candidates are screened out at each succeeding level.
The interviewer intentionally attempts to upset you to see how you react under pressure. You may be asked questions that make you uncomfortable or you may be interrupted when you are speaking. Although it is uncommon for an entire interview to be conducted under stress conditions, it is common for the interviewer to incorporate stress questions as a part of a traditional interview.
Although similar to the structured interview, the areas covered are much more limited. Key qualifications for success on the job are identified and relevant questions are prepared in advance.
Situations are set up which simulate common problems you may encounter on the job. Your responses to these situations are measured against predetermined standards. This approach is often used as one part of a traditional interview rather than as an entire interview format.
You may be interviewed by two or more company representatives simultaneously. Sometimes, one of the interviewers is designated to ask “stress” questions to see how you respond under pressure. A variation on this format is for two or more company representatives to interview a group of candidates at the same time.
The interview strategies discussed below can be used effectively in any type of interview you may encounter.
Before the Interview
- Prepare in advance. The better prepared you are, the less anxious you will be and the greater your chances for success.
- Role Play. Find someone to role play the interview with you. This person should be someone with whom you feel comfortable and with whom you can discuss your weaknesses freely. The person should be objective and knowledgeable, perhaps a business associate.
- Assess your interviewing skills. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Work on correcting your weaknesses, such as speaking rapidly, talking too loudly or softly and nervous habits such as shaking hands or inappropriate facial expressions. Decide what questions you would like to ask and practice politely interjecting them at different points in the interview.
- Evaluate your strengths. Evaluate your skills, abilities and education as they relate to the type of job you are seeking.
- Practice tailoring your answers to show how you meet the company’s needs, if you have details about the specific job before the interview.
- Assess your overall appearance. Find out what clothing is appropriate for your industry. Although some industries such as fashion and advertising are more stylish, acceptable attire for most industries is conservative. Have several sets of appropriate clothing available since you may have several interviews over a few days. Your clothes should be clean and pressed and your shoes polished. Make sure your hair is neat, your nails clean and you are generally well groomed.
- Research the company. The more you know about the company and the job you are applying for, the better you will do on the interview. Get as much information as you can before the interview.
- Have extra copies of your resume available to take on the interview. The interviewer may ask you for extra copies. Make sure you bring along the same version of your resume that you originally sent the company. You can also refer to your resume to complete applications that ask for job history information (e.g., dates of employment, names of former employers and their telephone numbers, job responsibilities and accomplishments.)
- Arrive early at the interview. Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. It’s important to make a good impression from the moment you enter the reception area. Greet the receptionist cordially and try to appear confident. You never know what influence the receptionist has with your interviewer. With a little small talk, you may get some helpful information about the interviewer and the job opening.
- If you are asked to fill out an application while you’re waiting, be sure to fill it out completely.
During the Interview
- The job interview is usually a two-way discussion between you and a prospective employer. The interviewer is attempting to determine whether you have what the company needs, and you are attempting to determine if you would accept the job if offered. Both of you will be trying to get as much information as possible in order to make those decisions.
- The interview that you are most likely to face is a structured interview with a traditional format. It usually consists of three phases:
- The introductory phase covers the greeting, small talk and an overview of which areas will be discussed during the interview.
- The middle phase is a question-and-answer period. The interviewer asks most of the questions, but you are given an opportunity to ask questions as well.
- The closing phase gives you an opportunity to ask any final questions you might have, cover any important points that haven’t been discussed and get information about the next step in the process.
- Introductory Phase- This phase is very important. You want to make a good first impression and, if possible, get additional information you need about the job and the company.
Make a good impression
You only have a few seconds to create a positive first impression which can influence the rest of the interview and even determine whether you get the job.
The interviewer’s first impression of you is based mainly on nonverbal clues. The interviewer is assessing your overall appearance and demeanor. When greeting the interviewer, be certain your handshake is firm and that you make eye contact. Wait for the interviewer to signal you before you sit down.
Once seated, your body language is very important in conveying a positive impression. Find a comfortable position so that you don’t appear tense. Lean forward slightly and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. This posture shows that you are interested in what is being said. Smile naturally at appropriate times. Show that you are open and receptive by keeping your arms and legs uncrossed. Avoid keeping your briefcase or your handbag on your lap. Pace your movements so that they are not too fast or too slow. Try to appear relaxed and confident.
Get the Information You Need
If you weren’t able to get complete information about the job and the company in advance, you should try to get it as early as possible in the interview. Be sure to prepare your questions in advance. Knowing the following things will allow you to present those strengths and abilities that the employer wants.
- Why does the company need someone in this position?
- Exactly what would they expect of you?
- Are they looking for traditional or innovative solutions to problems?
When to Ask Questions
The problem with a traditional interview structure is that your chance to ask questions occurs late in the interview. How can you get the information you need early in the process without making the interviewer feel that you are taking control?
Deciding exactly when to ask your questions is the tricky part. Timing is everything. You may have to make a decision based on intuition and your first impressions of the interviewer. Does the interviewer seem comfortable or nervous, soft-spoken or forceful, formal or casual? These signals will help you to judge the best time to ask your questions.
The sooner you ask the questions, the less likely you are to disrupt the interviewer’s agenda. However, if you ask questions too early, the interviewer may feel you are trying to control the interview.
Try asking questions right after the greeting and small talk. Since most interviewers like to set the tone of the interview and maintain initial control, always phrase your questions in a way that leaves control with the interviewer. Perhaps say, “Would you mind telling me a little more about the job so that I can focus on the information that would be most important to the company?” If there is no job opening but you are trying to develop one or you need more information about the company, try saying, “Could you tell me a little more about where the company is going so I can focus in those areas of my background that are most relevant?”
You may want to wait until the interviewer has given an overview of what will be discussed. This overview may answer some of your questions or may provide some details that you can use to ask additional questions. Once the middle phase of the interview has begun, you may find it more difficult to ask questions.
During this phase of the interview, you will be asked many questions about your work experience, skills, education, activities and interests. You are being assessed on how you will perform the job in relation to the company objectives.
All your responses should be concise. Use specific examples to illustrate your point whenever possible. Although your responses should be prepared in advance so that they are well-phrased and effective, be sure they do not sound rehearsed. Remember that your responses must always be adapted to the present interview. Incorporate any information you obtained earlier in the interview with the responses you had prepared in advance and then answer in a way that is appropriate to the question.
During the closing phase of an interview, you will be asked whether you have any other questions. Ask any relevant question that has not yet been answered. Highlight any of your strengths that have not been discussed. If another interview is to be scheduled, get the necessary information. If this is the final interview, find out when the decision is to be made and when you can call.
After the Interview
You are not finished yet. It is important to assess the interview shortly after it is concluded. Following your interview you should:
- Write down the name and title of the interviewer.
- Review what the job entails and record what the next step will be.
- Note your reactions to the interview; include what went well and what went poorly.
- Assess what you learned from the experience and how you can improve your performance in future interviews.
Make sure you send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Your thank-you note should:
- Be handwritten only if you have very good handwriting. Most people type the thank-you note.
- Be on good quality white or cream-colored paper.
- Be simple and brief.
- Express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
- Show enthusiasm for the job.
- Get across that you want the job and can do it.
If you were not told during the interview when a hiring decision will be made, call after one week. At that time, if you learn that the decision has not been made, find out whether you are still under consideration for the job. Ask if there are any other questions the interviewer might have about your qualifications and offer to come in for another interview if necessary. Reiterate that you are very interested in the job. If you learn that you did not get the job, try to find out why. You might also inquire whether the interviewer can think of anyone else who might be able to use someone with your abilities, either in another department or at another company.
If you are offered the job, you have to decide whether you want it. If you are not sure, thank the employer and ask for several days to think about it. Ask any other questions you might need answered to help you with the decision. If you know you want the job and have all the information you need, accept the job with thanks and get the details on when you start. Ask whether the employer will be sending a letter of confirmation, as it is best to have the offer in writing.