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A 7 Point Unemployment Action Plan

All the talk in the media and business world these days is about the recovery. The GDP is up, sales are up, profits are up, and executive bonuses are up. While that’s all good for some people somewhere, for many in the rank-and-file middle class it still looks and feels an awful lot like we’re still in a recession. With the unemployment rate hovering close to 7%, and the under-employment rate at 16.9% (as of March 2014), for practical purposes we still are. So here’s a 7 point unemployment action plan if your recession hasn’t ended.

Millions are still unemployed – some chronically – while many others are dangling precariously close to that status in what’s become a full blown employment revolving door. If you’re unemployed, or about to be, you need to have a concrete plan of action – preferably a written one – to keep you moving forward,either toward a new job or into something completely different.

A 7 Point Unemployment Action Plan
A 7 Point Unemployment Action Plan
And even if you do have a job and don’t think you will lose it anytime soon you might still need a plan to deal with a layoff that could come out of nowhere. These days, a missed budget or just the hint that the company’s five year plan might not pan out just six months into it is all it takes for the layoff ax to be sharpened.

An action plan has to be customized to fit your circumstances, but if you’re looking for a starting point – or a few new ideas to jump start what you have – try adding some of these to your agenda.

1. Set and keep a regular schedule

One of the unexpected complications of unemployment is the nothingness. When you have a job, you have a schedule that you’re entire life’s routine is wrapped around. But when the job is gone, so is the schedule and the regimentation it creates. There are times we all rebel against regimentation, as if it’s the ogre that’s controlling our lives. But closer to the truth is that it provides the structure that enables us to move forward in life.

If you’re jobless, you’ll have to find a way to create a new form of regimentation, otherwise you’ll find your days wasting away with little to show for them. A written schedule is best, one that includes daily activities. Some could be focused activities, like the job search. Others could be more generic, like networking and researching opportunities. Just make sure you’re doing something constructive each day. The idea is to create and maintain a momentum that keeps you moving foward.

2. Get serious about those networks you put off while you were employed

We all know about the importance of networking, but during the normal course of life we tend to talk about it more than participate. If you’re unemployed, networking becomes a high priority and should be part of the daily schedule we just talked about. Face to face meetings are much better than online, if you can make it happen. If not, the phone is always a good second choice.

One thought here though, most of us tend to network with others who are looking for similar jobs – that has value, but probably limited at best. What you’re really doing with that is networking with your competitors and it’s hard to see where that’s any kind of advantage. Better to seek out networks of potential employers, or even people in parallel fields who might know of a job opening in your field. Sometimes it’s better to come in through the back door where there’s less traffic.

3. Reposition yourself as a Problem Solver

You need a job, right? But your need won’t impress an employer. With so many prospects seeking out every job, the only way to get noticed is to position yourself as an answer to the employer’s biggest problems. Few employers are looking for generalists anymore.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are the biggest problems common to most businesses?
  • What are the biggest problems in your industry?
  • What are the biggest problems for a specific employer?

If you can identify what these are, and establish your ability to solve them, you’ll be carving out a niche that can get you a job. It isn’t easy, in fact it might require reinventing yourself. But once you do, a few doors should open up.

4. Start an exercise plan

If you already have one, you can skip this step. But if you don’t, this is the perfect time to start. When you’re unemployed it’s critical that you keep moving – and that’s both figurative and literal. Physical activity makes you feel better about yourself and everything else. If you’re jobless, you’ll need to be intentional about making that happen on a regular basis.

Being unemployed can make you feel useless and sluggish, and exercise can reverse both feelings. No, it probably won’t help you land a job, but it will get you moving in an entirely different direction and that will make you feel better about being you. And THAT just might help you find a job.

5. Do something new everyday

Unemployment is a time to experiment, to try things you didn’t have time for when you were working. Think self-discovery. This isn’t a flight of fancy either, but part of the attempt to reinvent yourself for another charge up the mountain of life. It’s often during these “free periods” that we find that we have hidden talents and interests that can take us in entirely different directions.

Investment advisor and best selling author Douglas Casey recommends facing an uncertain future with “courage, confidence and curiosity”. If you’re unemployed, you have nothing to lose by adopting this attitude. Try something new each day, even if it’s something small and see where it leads.

6. Get a part time job

Yes, this will reduce your unemployment benefits, but it isn’t all about money. Sometimes you need to be actively engaged in an income generating activity for emotional reasons, and a part time job can help. You’ll be doing something that you’re getting paid to do! And just as important, it’s also another way to keep moving.

You might also be able to find part time work that will help you to learn a new skill or two. Many times you can get hired on a part time basis for a job you wouldn’t be considered qualified for as a full timer, so this can be another way into a job through the backdoor.

7. Start a side business that you’ll keep even if you get a new job

Are there any businesses you’ve contemplated going into? Now might be the time to give it a try. You can use your unemployment benefits to help with living expenses while you’re getting started, and you’ll certainly have the time to do what’s needed.

Starting a side business is a way to:

  1. Keep busy
  2. Do something new and exciting
  3. Reinvent yourself
  4. Work part time
  5. And maybe even build a new future in which a new full time job will no longer be necessary

If you’re looking for an idea for a business you can start while unemployed, check out my post, The Freelance Blog Writer Side Hustle. Blog writing is a chance to start a business small and to grow it–risk free. Once you get a new full time job you can keep doing it as a side business. And if you ever lose your job again, it won’t feel nearly as bad because you’ll already have a an income generating business in place.

If you’re unemployed or have been in the past, what have you done to keep yourself active and engaged or to prepare yourself for the next job or business venture?

( Photo from Flickr by colmsurf )


11 Responses to A 7 Point Unemployment Action Plan

  1. I’ve been continually putting in resumes and applications, and trying to tap into my network. It’s still very hard, even to get a part time job. I’ve since started to work on my own side business in the mean time and get back to exercising. No luck with a new job yet.

  2. Hi Briana–I think that unemployment these days means digging in for the long haul. You have to have a bunch of things going in the hope that one of them will catch. The side business is probably the best thing anyone can do.

  3. In Ga. is one allowed to continue to collect unemployment benefits, search for a job and work on starting ones own business? That would sure be a real boost and hopefully get a lot of unemployed, working towards making money by trying something else. Unemployment helps them survive, at this point. Are you sure this is ok in Georgia? I have many friends out of work due to huge downsizing and are very frustrated that they can’t find work..BUT…they do not know that they can continue to receive benefits until…they make money with a business of their own. Is that how it works in Ga.?

  4. Hi Anna, I’ve never collected unemployment in GA so I’m not certain, but check with the unemployment office. I think it’s earnings, not activity that they’re looking at. If you start a business, you may not have any earnings for a while, but once you do start making money, you do have to report it to the unemployment office. That will lower your benefits, but you’re looking to build for the long term, not camp out with unemployment, so it’s a good trade off. You’ll also need to continue to look for full time employment in order to keep the benefits.

    BTW, my suggestion with a business is that it be a side venture, so you should still be available for full time employment. The dirty little secret of most businesses is that it usually takes a couple of years before they become self-sustaining full time ventures. What you’re really doing here is preparing for the next job loss! In the meantime, if you’re not having any luck finding a job anyway, you may as well be working on some enterprise that has the potential to payoff in time.

  5. Hey, Kevin. I think that you’re unemployed and someone that can learn well on their own, it’s a great time to take advantage of the time to sharpen your skills.

    One of the things you talk about is being a freelance blogger. You can take the skills you learn by doing that and apply them to lots of fields. Same with social networking. Marketing, blogging, and writing are important parts of many, many businesses — and this continues to grow.

    This period of unemployment could end up leading you in directions you hadn’t anticipated.

    But, yes, I definitely agree with you that there are other things that you should be doing — like keeping your spirits up, staying positive, and yes, even doing something fun once in a while!

    As someone who’s been in the unemployment situation before, I know it’s easier said than done!

  6. Hi Chris–Yes, that’s the whole point. Unemployment is like “down time” that can be used productively. It’s a chance to step into some things you didn’t have time for when you were working. If you can pick up a new skill, career or business it may be a long term win. It may not feel like a win at the time, but often times you realize looking back that it was one of the best things that ever happened. It’s worth maximizing the positive experience to the degree you’re able.

    Unfortunately for many today, unemployment has turned into a very long term event, and that can wear down the best of us (not to mention the finances!). Because of this it’s probably good to hit as many potential opportunities as possible as soon as possible after a job loss. It’s like there’s no time to mourn the lost job–you have to get busy against the possibility that unemployment will become long term. Which is what I was going for in the post. We have structural employment problems that won’t be cured quickly.

  7. Agreed, Kevin. Like many things, unemployment (especially long term) is indicative of a greater problem. And as you said, there’s no magical, quick fix. It seems like there needs to be a fundamental shift in our thinking and implementation on this, the economy, healthcare, and so on…

  8. Being a problem solver does provide an income source Kevin. It is working for me in 2012. And when I don’t know something, I do an internet search or ask someone. Hey, a neat way to add a NEW skill or service to your list of stuff you can do. 2012, watch out – here comes Angela(lol).

    Angela J. Shirley
    How To Survive Unemployment Site
    http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com/

  9. Hi Angela–I think constant, forward motion is the key to success. No matter what you come up against–even if you can’t overcome–you still find a way to move forward. Often we can overcome problems by going around them, we don’t need to solve every problem, and some can’t be fixed. But we can always choose to move forward down a different path. As long as we’re alive there’s always a way.

  10. 10/17/14 UPDATE: Just wanted to share with everyone that “volunteering” has been working for me and others I have been networking with. Yes, some positions will stay that way forever, but you never know when a permanent position may come available where you are volunteering. What I have also found true for myself is that the people you work for or with will usually clue you into available jobs. Today it is all about knowing someone as a lot of companies no longer advertise their job openings but reward loyal employees for bringing people they know into the company. In ending, age discrimination still exists and I cringe every time I see articles about “hiding” your age on your resume. My thoughts – instead of using all that time and energy doing this, improve your skills so you can market yourself. Bottom line, the employer is going to figure out your age when you go into a job interview as a dye job or leaving things off your resume can only hide so much. There are companies out there that will hire someone older than the new grad, so find those and be proud of your age and experience. I am in my 50’s and proud of this fact!

  11. Hi Angela – I think what it comes down to is being ready to do what ever is needed to make a living. I’m pretty much doing that myself. My friend Jay says that when you’re in business you have to take the approach that “what ever the question is, the answer is yes” – then work out the “how” part later. There’s so much truth to that. These days we all have to survive by flying by the seat of our pants, which is to say that loose plans are the best, and we need to be ready for anything.

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