Latest update: January 6th, 2013
We are all well aware that the economy is terrible and has been for a very long time. Things may seem better, but unemployment figures are still extremely high and it is hard to know when conditions will turn around. Looking for a job can be challenging, but it is crucial to stay upbeat and positive. How do you keep your spirits up in what could be a long and arduous job search journey?
One of the most common questions people ask when they meet new people is, “what do you do.” That is no accident. In America, our careers are how we tend to define ourselves. Finding yourself without a job can strike at the very core of who you are and what your worth is to society as a whole.
Martin Yate, author of the popular Knock ‘em Dead job search strategy books, points out that most job searchers were not expecting to find themselves looking for a job, and in an overwhelming majority of the cases, their unemployment is no fault of their own. It can be devastating to find that your years of unpaid overtime, cancelled vacations and late meetings did not earn you a reprieve from a pink slip. It is, however, important to realize that you are not alone in your job search, and your experience is shared by millions of others.
Jobs are never guaranteed. One of the cardinal rules of organizations is that everyone is expendable, so even in the best of times employers are willing to explore ways to get the job done at a lower cost. Often that means replacing experienced professionals with multiple entry-level positions at a lower rate. The job market, similar to life as a whole, is not fair, and people can do all of the right things and still find themselves unemployed for long periods of time.
Job search skills are truly life skills because most Americans will have to utilize them multiple times in their work career. Unemployment is a fact of life. Even in the best of times there is still approximately a 4-5% unemployment rate. To clarify, that rate only applies to those who are actively seeking employment. People who have retired or given up their job search are not included in that number. In the best case scenario, and in the best economy, 5 out every 100 people who are actively looking cannot find a job.
While it’s easy to say when you have a job, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure you have a positive mental attitude. Think positively and make sure you have confidence in yourself. Negativity has a tendency to be self-fulfilling. If you do not value yourself, it will be difficult for prospective employers to value you.
Staying positive is not an exercise in feeling good, it works decidedly in your favor when you are looking for a job. That belief is easier expressed than done, of course, but there are some practical suggestions you can use to keep your spirits up. First, you will need to create a written job search plan. Set goals and targets for every component of your job search and make sure to reach all of your goals. Keep to a schedule. Your primary job is to get a job, so set aside a block of time every day, maybe 5-7 hours a day, for work on your job search. Make sure to keep to that schedule.
Go to minyan and shiurim and get involved in chesed and tzeddaka projects as well. Wandering around aimlessly without direction and purpose, even for part of the day, can be depressing and self defeating. Finding a job is a primary focus in your life, but it is only one of them!
At the other extreme, some people are so despondent over losing their job, they believe every second of every waking hour must be devoted to their job search. Reward yourself for small accomplishments such as applying to a targeted number of jobs, networking with a target number of people, completing an interview. Spending some time doing the things you like can make the job search easier.
Unemployment often places monetary limitations on people’s ability to participate in some recreational activities, but with a little thought and planning, there are a lot of low-cost or free ways to have fun. Watching a high school sporting event, taking your children to feed the ducks or taking out books from the library are a few great ways to have some fun without spending a lot of money.
Joining a job search group is a great way to help you find a job. Talking to others in the same situation not only allows you to clarify and enhance your techniques, and help others do the same, it is affirming to talk to people who are experiencing the same stress. You can learn and support each other.
If you can’t find a job search group, carpe diem, create your own in your shul or community. It will provide you with some great exposure, and you can really make a difference in people’s lives at the same time. As an aside, it is a great idea to pledge to continue helping job seekers even after you secure employment. Agreeing to host regular job search meetings even when you are working can be very rewarding and provide significant meaning to the otherwise mundane job search.
It goes without saying that the whole aspect of self-care is crucial at this time in your life. Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising should not be neglected.
Sometimes finances dictate that you have to take a job you otherwise would not have taken. Contrary to popular belief, there is no shame in these so called “survival jobs.” Just the opposite, there is never anything demeaning about honest work that brings home a paycheck. Many of our parents and grandparents, who literally built the American Jewish community from the shambles of the Holocaust, were employed in those kinds of job. Working hard to put food on the table is commendable and is another illustration of how dedicated an employee you are.
No one is denying that unemployment is a difficult time. It is a challenge and it can be a frightening and lonely time as well. To reiterate, you are not alone, this is not your fault and you are not a bad person because you don’t have a job. Stay positive and upbeat. No one wants to be unemployed, but there are positive steps you can take to keep yourself productive and motivated.
Create a written job search plan and keep a schedule. Join or create a job search group. Do not neglect other important tasks. Go to minyan, and make sure to have some fun every once in a while. Be proud of every step you take, because it moves you one step closer to your goal and helps keep you upbeat and positive. Keep a schedule, set aside time for your personal enjoyment as well as chesed and tzeddaka every day and make sure to help others. Project your value, because if you don’t see your own worth, it is very difficult to sell others on your worth.
This is a learning experience. It may seem petty now, but there can be a time when you look back at this challenge and marvel at what you gained through the process. Use that knowledge wisely and “pay it forward” by extending an understanding and empathetic hand to your friend or neighbor when they find themselves in a similar position.
We will discuss practical suggestions for implementing other important strategies for the unemployed, including choosing and hiring an appropriate career coach, job search networking, making a true chesbon hanefesh (self assessment) and reading job search/motivational books in a future article. Stay tuned!
We welcome your feedback. Please email your career-related inquiries and/or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Touro College’s Career Services assists Touro students and alumni in all aspects of their career search. Contributing to this feature are Ron Ansel, MBA, CPC, Director of Career Services, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, and Sarri Singer, Assistant Directors.Ron Ansel
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