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.
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:
- Keep busy
- Do something new and exciting
- Reinvent yourself
- Work part time
- 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?