BY ANN BROWN
It can be frustrating when you are between jobs. The job hunt can be tiring and demoralizing, but there are things to do during this down period that could make you a more valuable hire.
“In order to land a new job, and be successful at it, we need to keep our metaphorical energy barrel full! Being unemployed creates a big leak or even a huge hole in that barrel. Paradoxically, that means we need more self-care and more energy-enhancing when in a career transition than ever before,” says career coach Elene Cafasso of Enerpace Executive. “Focus on what gives you energy–working out, dancing, singing, volunteering, spirituality, time with friends–whatever does it for you, get more of that!”
TNJ asked professional coaches the top 10 things to do when you are between jobs. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Get out the calendar: “Set up an ideal schedule and time block the activities that are integral to your search: networking; informational interviewing; coffee dates; research; LinkedIn time, etc.,” advises Cafasso. “Once you’ve completed your assigned and scheduled activities, go out and fill that energy barrel! Be around positive people and do not spend all your networking time with others in transition. Go where folks have a job–professional associations, community service groups, religious organizations, etc.”
2. Go back to school: “Continuing to learn in between jobs important for all of us, it can keep us sane when we stir crazy, but it can be particularly helpful to fill gaps. It doesn’t necessarily have to be completing a degree. You could take Quickbooks classes at the library, a PMP certification online, or take an entirely new class in Adobe Photoshop at a local trade/tech school. All of these options are inexpensive if not free, and demonstrate your desire to learn, expand your skill set, and make yourself more useful for a company,” life coach Kendra Davies of Stellar Life Coaching points out.
3. Try not to get overwhelmed: “Focus on what you can control–and the items above are all within your control. It’s also important to find an area where you can make and impact and see results. Some folks do that by volunteering. Others by completing projects around the house. Others by taking on project work or a part time job,” notes Cafasso.
4. Create a vision for yourself: “We are all used to doing this for our companies, but what about for ourselves? What is your Life Purpose? What do you have to offer the world that is unique and compelling? What do you want to offer the world?” asks Leadership Coach Jennifer Davis of Jennifer Davis Coaching. “Getting clarity around what you were basically put here on Earth to do (according to none other than…you) will not only help guide you to the perfect next position, but will more importantly give you clarity and connectedness to ‘what you’re all about.’ Employers, no matter the industry or position they are hiring for, will be attracted to your visionary perspective and commitment to putting your talents and goals in the bigger picture. When you speak from a place of passion and express what truly gives you fulfillment, they will want a person like that on their team.”
5. Create a Positioning Brief for yourself: “You can start with your Life Purpose from question #4 above, and then move on to key benefits/strengths (what makes you unique), personality/tone, key communication message to target (what do you want people to know about you that tells them who you really are?), supportive evidence (experience and education), and even a theme song or photo booth to add some playfulness to the project as well as to cement the image viscerally for yourself,” suggest Davis. “Once you have decided on your key message and have all the data, anecdotes, and passion to support it, all of your job search direction and conversations, and overall communications can come from there.”
6. Get some feedback and work on your development: “Between jobs is the perfect time to take a step back and reassess what you’re good at as well as what are your areas for growth,” offers Davis. “There are many wonderful 360 assessment tools out there; my personal favorite is The Leadership Circle Profile 360. Taking the time to ask for feedback and learn from it is an excellent catalyst for growth and development; not only will you learn a lot, but it will be something impressive to talk about in your future interviews.”
7. Volunteer: “Volunteering can be seen as a positive characteristic for you as a person generally speaking. Any volunteering is better than none, but volunteering your relevant work skills for non-profits demonstrates that even if you weren’t working per se you were still using skills and staying abreast of relevant information or technology. Also, if you are in a visual or creative field it allows you to expand your portfolio and scope of work,” explains Davies.
8. Take a trip: Going on a service trip, no matter how old you are is a great way to fill a gap. At the end of the day, these trips will make you a more compassionate and kind person–which is always a value add for organizations,” says Davies. “In many cases these trips are done through local churches or organizations with minimal expense to a volunteer. If you are a business person you could travel to another country to teach others anything from MS Office to book-keeping. If you are in a medical profession from dental assistant to doctor you can volunteer your time and expertise to many organizations with missions geared toward your skills. Whether it is 1 week or 1 month, you will be changed for the better, and you will have awesome stories to share in future interviews.
9. Look for free activities: “These things don’t have to cost money either. Go on a picnic. Help socialize animals in a shelter. Volunteer as an usher to see plays for free. Fully utilize all the wonderful movies and magazines and books our public libraries have,” offers Cafasso.
10. Get ready for reject: “Job search is a very vulnerable and very personal process. A non-answer is as painful as a rejection. It’s unfortunate, but it’s normal. It’s the rule not the exception. So how do you get over it? By building it into your process,” explains Cafasso. “For example, you use connections to network into a company and speak with someone who refers you to the hiring manager. Day 1, you call and get voice mail, explaining the connection and that you’ll email a resume. Which you also do on Day 1. Day 2, call again, expect to get voice mail again. Your message confirms the email was sent and provides an elevator speech version of the ‘why you’ story for the job. You request a 10-minute phone call. Expect not to get a call back or an email back. Day 3, you stick a resume in snail mail, with an appropriately specific and targeted cover letter. Day 10, follow-up on both items with a phone call. Expect voice mail and are ready to leave a good message. Day 15, email an inquiry as to whether the job has been filled or if interviews have begun. Don’t expect a reply which is why you already have your next step planned. Basically, the call/email/enlist your contact to call and email/contact strategy keeps going until you decide to stop it. At the end, you explain that after so many attempts you can only assume the position is filled, no longer available or that you are just not a fit. You won’t bother them again since you know they’re very busy and it’s not your intention to be a pest. And wish them the best of luck.”