Through no fault of your own, you find yourself unemployed. After the immediate shock, how do you start to look for work and connect with people who can get you back into the nine-to-five? Here’s some much-needed advice.
1. First, take a breath
Before you go diving into social events, sending out mass emails, and making panicked phone calls, you need to take a little time to regroup. Losing a job is a traumatic experience, and you need to give yourself time to decompress, regroup, and reevaluate.
We’re not talking about two worry-free weeks vacationing on a beach in Cancun. This is more about not jumping into the stress and fatigue of a job hunt immediately after the stress and fatigue of a job loss. Do anything but networking for the first few days, whether it’s spending a week at home tidying up or hanging out with family, heading to the mountains for a weekend, or visiting relatives in another state.
2. Get your ducks in a row before talking to anyone
Now, you’re ready to get back in the game. Before you make a call or send an email, you have to be prepared. Is your resume up to date? Do you have a personal website that hosts samples of your most recent work? Do you have all the files needed from the office? If not, you may be able to ask human resources to send you whatever you need; after a layoff, some companies are happy to help employees with the transition (if you’re fired, it’s a different story).
Make sure you also know exactly what you’ll say to people. How will you explain being out of work? Why were you let go? Do you even want to bring it up? Some employers may see a layoff as part of life, others may think you were expendable for a reason. You want to have your answers rehearsed, and never play the victim. Don’t go jumping into calls unprepared; you only get one chance to make a first impression.
3. Start with people you know well
It may seem like stating the obvious, but when anyone is laid off, they are not always thinking clearly. Often, the first thing people do is to start applying for jobs, and that’s all well and good. But your own network of friends, colleagues, and even relatives may have just what you need to get ahead.
So, call or email (calling is better) your top prospects. These are people you know well, you share a great relationship with, and potentially have leads for you. If they aren’t directly connected to the industry you work in, they could very well know someone who is. And a lot of the time, these kinds of connections lead to job openings that have not even been posted on the employment sites yet.
4. Use sites like LinkedIn to connect with new contacts
LinkedIn is a great way to make new contacts through your existing networks of colleagues and friends. And if you really don’t have any kind of connection with anyone, you can still ask to be linked to them. People like to build their networks, and it’s usually easy enough to connect and send a message. Don’t be shy about telling people your current situation and what you are looking for. If they’re not hiring, they may know someone who is. You can also use other social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to let people know you’re searching for work.
5. Attend local networking events
In almost every city, you will find opportunities to meet up with people who are in your industry. You can start by looking at a site such as Meetup, which gives you access to hundreds of different groups that meet regularly in your area. This is not just for people who like football or book clubs. The vast range of subjects to choose from makes it easy to hone in on your field, and talk to people who may have opportunities for you.
6. Join online forums and industry-related sites
Online forums are a great way to get advice. If you do an online search for your industry of choice, you should find a few active forums quickly. Also, a site like Reddit has sub-pages (subreddits) on thousands of careers. Join that subreddit, and start commenting and posting as soon as you can. You may quickly connect with someone who knows of a job opening.
7. Do not be afraid to take a break
This is crucial. You can suffer from networking burnout if you go all-in, trying to contact as many people as you can in the first week of your job search. Attending events, making calls, crafting resumes, writing emails, and chatting in forums is a lot of work. And it can also cause you to become incredibly deflated and discouraged when you get very little response in return.
The truth is, in almost every industry, you are up against some stiff competition. It can take months to get a great lead that turns into a job interview and offer of employment. So, when you start to feel the pressure, take a day off. Do something that lets you decompress a little. Finding work is a job in and of itself, and you should give yourself the downtime you need to stay healthy and optimistic.