Unemployment sucks. Or it should. I won't discuss my confusion over those who use government as the source of survival, and the author of their income. We are reaching a tipping point. The number of people working, and paying taxes is shrinking; those relying on government (food stamps, welfare, and other subsistence programs) grows dramatically. As Mitt Romney pointed out, food stamp participation is at a record high. In the George Bush administration, living at or below the poverty line was proof Republicans did not care about those in need. In the Obama administration, government benevolence provides support to those who cannot find work. For up to two years.
I have been unemployed for 40 days. I don't enjoy it, but I've been through it before. There are pitfalls and challenges moving to the next job, especially when the move is unplanned. Here are some suggestions. I may have others, but this will get you started if you are in similar circumstances (feel free to share these):
1. The most dangerous thing is discouragement, leading to depression. When a new job does not land in your lap, you feel self-doubt and frustration. To combat this, set a routine. Treat every day as a work day. When you worked, what time would you work? Don't sleep late, watch television, and play video games. You are NOT on vacation. Organize. Use resources (state unemployment job boards, on-line job sites, newspapers, and going out to similar businesses). If sources run thin, do other projects. Take on household chores (cooking, shopping, cleaning projects, or organizing your basement. Do projects you can't usually do because of your work). Do charity work. I'm volunteering at the Open Door Mission (feel free to make a donation). When you accomplish goals and see progress, even if they don't lead to employment, it counter-balances a sense of rejection when a new job doesn't appear. Oh, and write a blog for www.examiner.com. If you are new to this, please list me as your referral source (and I can earn extra money, in addition to clipping coupons and doing on-line surveys; which I am doing for a supplement to my unemployment benefits).
2. Make a smart search. I know job sources say call to "check on the status" of the application. As a restaurant manager, I've fielded those calls. If you check an application, to show your enthusiasm and interest, use common sense. With a restaurant, don't call 11am to 2 pm or 5 to 7 pm, since those are the meal times. Call at the wrong time and hurt your status, as managers see this as a lack of understanding for the business and demands of the job. This advice also extends to the issue of "availability". In the restaurant business, those not available nights and weekends tend to move to the bottom of the consideration list, since those are the high traffic (and high earnings) times. Whatever business you apply, when are the busiest, most necessary times of operation? Make sure you can work those times. And more. If you get an interview, research the business. Know their philosophy. If possible, use their services or product, so you can speak intelligently. As a restaurant manager, I've driven 50 miles to try a restaurant, because it was the closest location (they were moving into the Omaha market, in the job I applied for).
3. Check employment sources on weekends. I've noticed HR people post new job openings on the weekend. I think they want to arrive on Monday morning to an in-box of new applications and resumes. If YOUR job search doesn't begin until Monday, you are 2-3 days behind and in a larger mix of names on the HR recruiter's list. If they are going to contact the first 5-6 applications that most closely match their criteria, you may be too late.
4. Outside the box. If your experience is in one industry, what other options might you consider? My career is 30 years in food, but I've made applications to other, retail-oriented, jobs. I lack experience, but everyone is looking for customer service skills, and the restaurant business has given me that. If I read the required experience/skills and nothing excludes me (a Business degree or several years of "big box" experience) I apply. I have been contacted by options outside my traditional field (grocery, retail, auto service). No success, yet, but demonstrate you believe in your skill, experience, enthusiasm, and ability to be re-trained.
5. Non-traditional sources. Looking for a new job usually involves the job board for unemployment, signing up for Careerbuilder, Monster, and other traditional job sites. Get their e-mail updates, so notes are sent to you immediately when they are posted (you can usually set up different searches, for a variety of e-mails, if you are looking outside your usual career field). Also, Craigslist has interesting offers. Local churches may have job offices and computer access for those who don't have it at home. Networking with the people you meet when you sign up for that charity work that will get you out of the house a couple times a week. The key to that next job might be frequency and number of connections, and this time more is truly better.
As my search continues, I will post more suggestions for this process. If I am successful, I will highlight anything I believe contributed to that success. I hope this is helpful, and look forward to any comments, suggestions, or ideas you might want to share, too!