In the new business climate, where corporations are downsizing and whole industries are shifting, many workers suddenly find themselves out of a job. What‘s next?
LOSING A JOB
Losing your job can be a shock, especially if you’ve been with a company for years.
- If you’ve been laid off because of corporate downsizing, know that it‘s not your fault and that you aren’t alone.
- Begin networking at once. This is the process of meeting, helping, and being helped by business contacts. Don‘t be shy when networking; talk to friends and friends of friends. Many job openings are filled through personal relationships, not through want ads.
- Get your résumé in order and then call, write, or have lunch with anyone who can help you.
- If your former employer offers job counseling, outplacement services, or retraining, take advantage of it.
- Join organizations that are relevant to your job experience or career objectives. Many professional organizations offer phone—in job lines that describe full or part-time positions available. Most are free to members; nonmembers may have to pay a fee.
- Find a support group in your community for people who are out of work. Call your local minister, priest, or rabbi. Churches and synagogues often sponsor support groups.
- Call the Y in your area for information. Check the yellow pages of your telephone directory for ‘career counseling’ or ‘social service organizations.’
- When you read want ads, don‘t confine your search to your old title or job description. Take a broad view of your career. Many skills are transferable to other fields. And don‘t overlook the chance to build a new career on a hobby or special interest.
- Register at employment agencies; some specialize in particular types of work.
- You may decide you need more education or training to get the job you want (see The Rewards of Self—Improvement). Many employers and employment counselors say that computer skills are an asset. If you don‘t have such skills, consider signing up for a course.
- Retraining is often cited as a way to get a new job, but not all retraining results in placement. Before you start training, get the names of companies that are hiring people with the kind of skills you are about to learn.
APPLYING FOR A JOB
- Your résumé should be reproduced by a quick—print service or by a computer with a clear printer. Have it copied on good—quality 8—1/2 by 11-inch paper in white, off—white, beige, or pale gray. Print on one side of the page only. Include your education, honors you have received, job history, special skills, and personal interests that are relevant.
- Prepare a list of the names, job titles, and phone numbers of those who will give you references. Have it with you when interviewing.
- Send a cover letter with each résumé. It should state briefly what job you are interested in and why you are qualified for that position.
- If you are not responding to a want ad but conducting a general search, call the company you‘d like to work for. Find out the name of the personnel manager and, perhaps, the person who heads the department in which you would like to work. Consider writing to both of them.
- Have business cards printed with your name, address, telephone number, and fax number, if you have one. You may want to include your occupation (such as a computer programmer).
- Overcome any reticence you may have about distributing your business cards. They are especially useful at support groups and meetings of professional organizations. You may also want to leave cards with people whose business you patronize regularly, such as your health club. Ask if the manager will post your card on the bulletin board. Another place for your card maybe your local community center.
- Have interview clothing—a suit or ensemble—clean, pressed, and ready to go at all times. Whenever possible, check out the corporate environment of a potential employer to find out what‘s appropriate. When in doubt, dress conservatively.
You should have a push button telephone in order to access job lines and other information systems. You should also have an answering machine or service. Be sure to leave a businesslike, no—nonsense message on your machine.
THE JOB INTERVIEW
If possible, read up on the company where you will be interviewing before you meet with them.
- Plan to arrive at the interview ahead of time so that you won‘t be late.
- Project confidence with a firm handshake, a clear tone of voice, good posture, and eye contact.
- Be ready with a short presentation of your background and experience. When a potential employer says, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ have a synopsis of your experiences and skills ready to roll off the tongue. It‘s a good chance to emphasize your skills. Also, prepare answers to questions that will naturally arise when someone reads your résumé.
- Ask a friend or your spouse to help you rehearse your interviews by taking the role of an interviewer. This way, you can polish your presentation and become more comfortable with your delivery.
- If you were fired from a job, be ready to explain briefly why you were terminated. However, never make negative remarks about your previous employer or boss.
- If there are time gaps in your résumé, be prepared to say how you spent the time.
- Besides answering questions during the interview, you should ask your own. This gives you a chance to show that you are informed about the organization.
- Let your interviewer be the first to mention the salary. If the salary has to be negotiated, try to get the interviewer to set a range.
After the interview, send a short thank—you note to the interviewer. If you haven‘t heard from the company in a week, phone and express your continuing interest.
THE LONG HAUL
Many people are depressed by unemployment. Having invested so much in their jobs, they are deeply troubled to be without the sense of identity, security, and prestige they had in the past. They see themselves as being cut adrift and may feel worthlessness and shame. These feelings, and many practical matters, should be addressed at the outset of unemployment.
- Realize that it is normal to grieve over the loss of your job. You will most likely go through the same stages of grief as someone who has had a close friend die. First, there is disbelief, then anger, then depression, and, finally, acceptance. You are ready to get on with your life.
- Guard your health. Continue to eat well and exercise (preferably at least one type of aerobic workouts, such as a walking program). Exercise stimulates body chemicals that fight depression; it helps your body to fight stress as well. And, in all likelihood, when you exercise, you‘ll sleep better.
- Stick with your hobbies and volunteer work, unless they involve too much time or money. No one can or should job—hunt every waking hour. Hobbies and volunteer work provide a good respite by reinforcing your self—esteem, and sense of accomplishment.
- Take stock of your financial assets. If you don‘t have enough cash in a savings account to pay your bills, contact your creditors. See if they will agree to smaller monthly payments during your period of joblessness.
- ‘Have family conferences to discuss ways to economize. Include older children in your discussions. You can‘t shield them from bad news—and most kids are eager to help.
- Maintain a positive outlook. While you are sure to go through some discomfort and inconvenience while you are unemployed, don‘t let your situation affect your overall mental health.
- Be prepared for ups and downs. There will be times when you are sure you could do a particular job and you believe the interviews went well, yet the offer doesn’t come through. Being the runner—up often gives rise to second-guessing: ‘If I had only said this or done that.’ Don‘t give in to this impulse. This happens to everyone—just go on to the next interview.
- Avoid things you find depressing. You‘ll have enough on your mind when job—hunting, so if you find the late evening news depressing, opt instead to watch something soothing or amusing.
- Keep a diary. Writing your thoughts and feelings may help you relax and will certainly help you remember important appointments.
- Consider career counseling. With the changing economy, demands for some skills will dwindle. If you must change careers, counselors can help.
- While you search for a new job, consider working as a consultant or a freelancer. These temporary jobs provide income, add to your work experience, increase your ability to network, and may allow you to be at the ‘right place at the right time’ when a job opens up.
WORKING AT HOME
Make a clear division between your personal time and your work time. Answer your phone with a professional greeting when you‘re working, and ask friends to call only in the evening.
- Most people who work at home use a computer. You may also want to consider such additions to your office as a modem, a copier, and a facsimile machine.
- Use one part of your home for your office work and nothing else. For more on creating a home office, see ‘You and Your Environment,‘.
- If you find it difficult to get started, establish an activity to mark the beginning of your workday, such as making coffee or going out for breakfast.
- If you find it hard to end the workday and often let the job extend into the evening hours, make a practice of turning off your computer and desk lamp at a specified time.
- You won‘t need a suit for the home office, but don‘t be sloppy, either. How you feel about your appearance will come through in your performance and in your phone calls. Keep in mind: dressing up for an important phone call is a tried and true sales technique.
THE AEROBIC COMMUTE
If you have a regular job outside your home and you have a relatively short commute, consider walking, running, biking, or rollerblading to work. You‘ll take care of two things at once—getting to work and exercising.
- Commuters who exercise this way are more likely to stick to a routine. Of course, you should have an alternate means of transportation in case of bad weather and for those times when you work late.
- One consideration when you commute in any of these ways is whether you can take a shower at work or nearby. Some newer office buildings have workout rooms with showers. Having an office with a door is also a plus.
- Exercising your way to work could help you on the job. You‘ll find that you will be more alert and ready to start the day. In the evening, exercise will help you to work off job—related tension.
- You may want to bring your change of clothing into the office ahead of time, perhaps for the entire week. You‘ll also need a supply of toiletries.
- If there is a dry cleaner near work, you can avoid bringing clothing home to be cleaned.
COMMUTING BY CAR
Many people spend a substantial part of the day just getting to work. Here‘s how to make the trip more pleasant:
- Driving makes some people tense, and in traffic jams, tension often ricochets from car to car. This is a fact of life; it‘s up to you to keep your cool when other drivers make wrong moves, honk their horns, or generally behave in a discourteous way. Another fact of life is that some of the drivers with short fuses may actually become violent, so don‘t trade insults.
- Relieving tension may be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and loosening your grip on the steering wheel. Or tune in to a soothing music station on your radio.
- Take a break before you drive home, perhaps by going for a brisk walk or stopping at the gym. This will give you time to relax and may allow you to avoid the rush—hour traffic.
- Be aware that when you use a car phone, you are dividing your attention, so that you may miss signals from other drivers or fail to see road hazards. Don‘t make or receive calls when driving conditions are hazardous. If a conversation becomes too absorbing, get off the phone. You can tell the other party you will call back.
- To make your commute more productive, use a dictation machine or portable tape recorder. You can tape ideas or dictate letters as you drive.
- You can also fill the time by listening to language courses, motivational tapes, or recorded books.
- Commute with your spouse, if possible. This will give you a chance for conversation. Also, you can help each other relieve stress and unwind after a hectic day.
Before you begin your drive, listen to traffic reports to find out where the problem areas are.
CARPOOL, TRAIN, OR BUS
The simplest way to fight driving stress is to do less of it, either by carpooling or taking public transportation. Mass transit is better for the environment and often cheaper for the rider. It also leaves you with free time in which to work or relax.
- Members of a carpool save money on fuel and tolls, as well as wear and tear on their individual cars. From an ecological standpoint, carpooling saves a significant amount of fuel and reduces pollution.
- Many communities encourage carpooling because it relieves traffic congestion. Some cities reserve special lanes for the use of carpools. This gives a carpooling automobile an advantage over those with just one occupant. If your community isn’t doing this, call or write to your local representative to suggest it.
- If you‘re in a carpool and you‘re not the driver, you can catch up on reading or paperwork or take a short nap.
- Using mass transit helps cut down on pollution. One way to do this is to drive to a train station or bus depot, park, and then take the train or bus the rest of the way to work.
- Depending on the particular railroad, the train may be a more reliable way to travel than a car. During blizzards and other storms that make roads impassable, trains usually keep going.
- Mass transit may also be the fastest way to travel in cities. Trains don‘t get caught in traffic jams.
- If you hate to give up driving your own car, try taking a bus or train just one or two days a week. Or use your car only when you have errands to run.
- To unwind and get exercise, leave your carpool, train, or bus 10 to 15 minutes from home and finish your commute on foot.