Tech & Work

Tips for staying positive when facing unemployment

Facing a period of unemployment can be both emotionally and financially draining. Here are four tips from technical recruiter Tim Heard on how to stay focused when you don't have a job.


After being laid off, it’s just as important to work on staying positive as it is to work on getting a new job. That’s the advice of Tim Heard, a technical recruiter for JC Malone, a career placement service. In this article, Tim offers advice to a TechRepublic member who's currently dealing with unemployment. According to Tim, you need to lay some basic groundwork to prepare yourself for a new job search and the possibility of lots of time off.

Question
"In my last position, I worked as a technical support representative for Macromedia. I loved the job, but technical support was outsourced to Manila.

"I have been responding to technical support, help desk, and even many technical customer service representative (CSR) positions by sending my resume. I have sent 75 resumes out and have received no responses. I have excellent references and do great on interviews but can't get that first phone call.

"Do you think there is something about my resume that is a factor, or is it just the economy here in San Francisco?"
Bill

Answer
My gut tells me that you're doing a lot of the right things. It seems that you're aggressively pursuing open positions. Hopefully, you have also generated a resume on your personal home page and have submitted a resume to several online resume banks. (Post a resume on as many as possible, because some recruiters and companies may rely exclusively on one particular job site.)

I do need to point out, however, that there is a small typo on your resume, which could be one reason why you didn't get a response to some of your inquiries. You should always have someone else proofread your resume. Sometimes there can be errors that spell checkers can't pick up. Also, when you proofread something on your own, you often read what you expect to see rather than what's actually on the page. Building a resume, however, isn't going to be the focus of my response. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the economy in San Francisco (or almost anywhere in the United States for that matter).

You’re in the same situation as a lot of other tech-sector individuals right now. The economy is very soft, and there are just a lot more applicants looking for jobs than there are jobs. Still, I am beginning to hear more and more "experts" say that they expect to see the economy begin to warm up in the first quarter of this year, and I have even heard some recruiters say that their business is already improving. If you accept such an optimistic view of things, then you can assume that your odds of landing a new position will improve steadily in the coming weeks and months.

Still, surviving until then can be a challenge, especially in this economy. But once you’ve done all you can to perfect your resume, you’ve gotten it to all the right people, and you’ve got a good grasp on the employment opportunities in your area, the only other thing you can do is to stay positive. With that in mind, I'd like to offer a few tips to keep unemployment from dragging you down.

1. Remember that you aren't what you do
Your personal value is not tied to your occupation. A lot of people feed their own egos with accomplishments at work, job titles, and so on. When they get laid off, it comes as a huge shock to their systems and often leads to depression. Generally this isn't a deliberate process, so consciously acknowledging such feelings, if they exist, can be helpful. It sounds really cheesy, but, on a regular basis, you should make an effort to remember what is good about you and be thankful for it, regardless of whether you are currently employed.

2. Get plugged in to some sort of support structure
Having personally been through two corporate downsizings, I can attest to the fact that thinking happy thoughts is not always easy. In my case, I was very fortunate to have several good friends from work and church who I could hang out with and vent to when needed. At times they were just a source of sympathy, and at other times, they were able to offer very constructive feedback.

If you are married, I strongly advise against making your spouse your sole source of emotional support. That's a lot to put on one person, and your spouse is probably going through much of the same stress you are (wondering how the bills are going to get paid and so on).

3. Get out of the house and do something
I personally think that everyone who gets downsized should be afforded the luxury of at least a week of sleeping late, watching cartoons on TV, eating unhealthy food, and staying up late watching old movies. However, after you have had your downtime, you need to make an effort to keep your life structured. Make looking for a job a full-time job. Get out and go to lunch with people. Get some exercise. Eat regular, healthy meals. All of these things will help you stay sharp mentally—something you’ll need when that first call comes in for an interview.

4. Don't be too proud to do what's necessary to pay the bills
I recently worked with a very talented embedded programmer/project leader who was working nights at a package shipping company while sending out resumes and going for interviews during the day. Luckily, I was able to place him in a very nice long-term contract position in the beginning of January. Still, until this position came along, he had several weeks of bills to pay, as well as Christmas gifts to buy for his kids. I really respect the fact that he didn't consider himself above working outside of his niche.

Another source for advice
For specific tips on what to do once you’ve been laid off, you might want to check out Administrative Resource Network’s Surviving Downsizing page. I just recently came across this Web site, and while it is not specifically geared toward techs, it does offer some very good practical advice regarding what to do when you lose your job—something many IT pros are now facing.

I hope that this has been helpful. If any of you would like to offer some feedback, whether positive or negative, please drop me a line or post a response to this article. I'd love to hear from you. Happy job hunting!

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