When I lost my job, I slightly panicked, updated my resume, got online, and started applying. This is the WRONG approach. If you are doing this, please stop. Below are some tips on how to handle your first few days in your new job, finding a job. You need to develop some structure around you approach to your search. Taking the time to do this work during the early days of your job search will increase the chances of you getting the job that you want in the time you want.
In your first few days (in order):
Losing your job can be traumatic. When I recently lost mine, my wife was 7 months pregnant with our second, we were a few weeks away from closing on our first home, and I was in grad school. Both my pastor and career counselor gave me the same advice … “Relax, take a deep breath, everything will be fine…your life is not going to stop.” They were right. All that the stress was doing was causing me not to think clearly. How can you make the right decisions if your head is foggy? And who is going to want to hire someone with a chip on their shoulder? You aren’t going to be pleasant to be around. Take a minute and enjoy your new freedom. It won’t be long and you’ll be back to the 8 to 5. And let’s be honest, the American working life ain’t that great anyway. Enjoy being away from it while you can. Take a day (or two) and just don’t do anything. You aren’t going to get a job tomorrow (or the next day). Relax.
2. Develop an Action Plan
You have tasks and timeliness at work; you need to have them when you are unemployed as well. It will help keep you focused and you’ll be able to measure progress in a way other than if got a job or not (which should not be the measure of a successful job search). Some things to include in your action plan will be the items listed later. Further, you should include things like … how many people to have coffee with each week, how many jobs you're going to apply for, how much time you are going to spend looking online … etc… And a word of advice, only spend 4 days a week doing your job search. It is exhausting work. Get up in the mornings when you normally would for work. Start working on resumes, cover letters, applications, your industry research, what you want to do, etc… By the time Friday comes, you’ll need a break. You don’t want to get burnt out. This doesn’t mean you don’t work hard at finding a job. Or that you don’t take on a part-time job to supplement your income. But you have to be in the job search for the long haul. Trust me, it will make you more successful.
3. Learn Your Rights / Unemployment Benefits
When you are unemployed you need to get to know your rights as an unemployed citizen. You are in a new pond now, you need to learn it.
File for unemployment benefits with your state. You can do this by going to your state's website for unemployment benefits (a Google search will pull up the site). The application process is extremely easy. We like income, so let’s get this flowing ASAP. If you have received a severance you typically can’t file for unemployment until after that time is up.
If you had insurance with your previous employer you might want to consider COBRA. It is pretty expensive though. An alternative that you might want to look at is governmental insurance (Medicaid). You have to fit into a unique demographic to qualify. Go to your states Medicaid website for more information (a Google search will pull up the site). Honestly, if you are single and healthy. You might want to consider forgoing insurance until you find employment. If you have a family, the choice can be difficult.
A number of the things that you will do when you are unemployed will be tax deductible. However, these change yearly so you need to check with the IRS website when you go to file your taxes. Mileage to and from interviews, job fairs, etc… are typically tax deductible as well as various fees and resume related expenses. The point is you need to keep all of your job search related receipts so that when you go to file your taxes you can add the appropriate ones up.
4. Learn About Yourself
Looking for a new job is the best time to reflect on what you really want to do. You have a fresh start and can do anything. But in order to know what you want to do, you need to take some time to learn about yourself. If you are like most people, you have been in the workforce working a job just to pay the bills for so long; you have forgotten what it is like to do something you really enjoy. You don’t want to take this opportunity that has been given to you and waist it by just taking another job that isn’t really a fit for you (now when push-comes-to-shove, you need to pay bills, you need a job). There are a number of tools out there to help with this. I personally don't like the formality of those tools and prefer to sit, think, and plot some things out. However you do it, it needs to be done.
5. Build Your Network
5. Build Your Network
Most people will land a quality job through someone in their network. You have heard it a million times, “It’s not what you know, and it’s who you know.” Start thinking through all the people that are in your network and build a list. Reach out and start having coffee or talking on the phone with them. A lot of people are willing to help others in today’s job market. Take advantage. I have landed every single one of my jobs through my network, never by applying to a job online. The problem with applying online is that there are a million people with the same exact resume as you. A referral will go a long way. Take a look at my Job Toolkit for some resources to get you started.
6. Dust Off Your Elevator Pitch
“Tell me about yourself, what do you want to do?” You won’t only hear this in interviews, but you will get this from people in your network as well. You have to be able to answer this question quickly and on point. If you can’t then you won’t get a job because people won’t take you seriously. In 30 seconds you should be able to:
a. Clearly describe what your good at
b. Explain what you want to do
c. Say something interesting about yourself that people will remember
It’s not complicated, but you job search won’t go very far without it.
7. Prepare Your Resume
I could write an entire section on resume tips and tricks. But there are already a number of good sources out there. If you send me your resume, I can take a look and will provide some feedback. If you want some tips, these tips aren’t bad: 15 Tips for Writing Winning Resumes.
8. What About The Cover Letter?
There is a lot of debate out there on whether or not you need a cover letter. The experts always say to write one, even though they can’t prove that they are effective. I think it doesn’t hurt to have one and then tweak it for every application. Once you create your initial one, it won’t take more than 10 minutes to make it fit to a job before you apply. Like resumes tips, there are a lot of cover letter tips as well. I’m going to go ahead and provide you a template to use that in my opinion deliver the best results. You can find it on my Job Toolkit Page.
9. Job Search Online
Only now are you ready to start looking for jobs online. Most of your quality job opportunities will come from people that you know, but you still need to look to see what is out there and apply (before you apply, check and see if there is anyone in your network that is in the company that you should reach out to). What looking will do is not only provide jobs that you can apply for, but it will let you know what is in demand in the market place. Use this to your advantage. The more educated you are as a job seeker, the better chance you will have to find a job. Before you search online, take a look at my Best Job Search Engines page.