How to Hack your Unemployment
So, you’re unemployed. Welcome to the club. There are about 8,000,000 of us in the US, so when I say there’s a club, trust me, there’s a club. A huge club. In fact, if you took our entire club and put us together, we’d have nearly the same population as New York City.
You must be feeling pretty cool right now, huh?
OK, I get it. Nobody really expects to be unemployed. When you’re a kid, you kind of just think that you’ll always have a job. “I’ll be a doctor! I’ll be a lawyer!” never “I’ll be unemployed! YEAH!”
So it’s something of a shock when you find out you’re getting laid-off, or you get out of university and you can’t find a job, or you have to quit your job to have kids. It’s sobering to have once been a productive member of society, and now you’re just….not.
Now you’re just unemployed.
Now you have the day to lounge around in sweatpants and eat terrible junk food…and watch Netflix…and maybe try to apply for a job or two before bed. Ta-da. Another day gone. Bring on tomorrow.
If you want to stop being unemployed you need a plan of attack. And trust me, sweatpants and Netflix are great but being a functional member of society also feels pretty great. Having enough money to eat 3 full meals also feels pretty great. Sleeping at night and not worrying about debt….you guessed it, great.
Step One: Game Plan
You need to decide where you want to go from here. If you’re unemployed because you’re looking after your children or a sick family member, you’re not exempt from this. You want to be set up for when you inevitably need to get a job.
If you’re in more dire straights, this is something that you need to get started on ASAP.
Sit down and decide what your end goals are. Did you like the kind of work you were doing before? Great! Did you hate it? Great! Do you really want to be a dog trainer? Great!
You can’t pull the trigger if you don’t know what you’re aiming at.
A study was done in 1985 on accomplished people in different fields (pianists, mathematicians, swimmers, tennis players, chess players, and sculptors). The result of the study was that nearly all of the accomplished individuals worked every day for at least 10–15 years to reach the top of their field. The researchers also noticed that the people who succeeded in being the best in their field had a strong interest in their field, a desire to reach a high level of attainment, and they were also willing to put in great amounts of time and effort.
What does this teach us? You need to care about your job to succeed in it.
Sure, you can apply for every random job you find on Craigslist. But let me tell you, that job interview is going to be full of half-truths and you’ll be less likely to get the job if you actually don’t care about it at all. Plus, if you get the job, you have a much better chance of hating it and making your life a lot worse in the long run.
So decide what you want to do first. The rest will revolve around that.
Step Two: Get Educated
No, I don’t mean go back to school.
What I’m talking about is gaining knowledge and/or getting certified.
You’ve got a lot of downtime now — far more than you did when you were working 8+ hours a day. So, when you’re not looking for a job, you should be making yourself easier to market. You should be consuming information about the field you would like to get into.
Does this mean you need to pay a bunch of money to invest in yourself? No. Go get books out from the library or read through articles on the internet or meet up for coffee with someone who has the job you want. I mean, Elon Musk self-taught himself to build rockets through reading books. What excuse do you have?
You want to have the information you need to make a great impression on your resume and during your interview. This is especially true if you’re changing careers. Even if you’re not, being unemployed shouldn’t be used as wasted time. Focus more on specific skills that other candidates might not know and that can set you apart. Make yourself great at one important thing that people in your career need more of.
Specific certifications in your field can be very helpful, and usually they don’t cost as much as going back to college or university. You can also do part-time or on-line classes (even if you do one or two, you can still list that on your resume) or get certified in things like first aid, which are pretty generic but helpful in all workplaces. Some people focus on things like learning a new language, web design, or other useful skills.
So make sure you come out of unemployment with more skills than you had when you went into it.
Step Three: Network
The saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” has been around for over a hundred years now. Why? Because it’s true. They knew it back then, and we know it now.
So ask your friends if they know of job openings. Ask your sister, neighbour, mother, father, brother, the guy you talk to at the coffee shop, etc, if they’ve heard any news. Use LinkedIn to see who you can meet up with, who can help you out, and who knows who.
Often people are too embarrassed to ask for help and they don’t want to tell people they’re unemployed. Don’t be that person! Most people, at some point or another, are unemployed. Life happens! The people who rise above it are the ones who spend their time wisely, and networking is time well spent.
According to a LinkedIn survey, 85% of positions are filled by networking! 85%! That’s huge! So talk to people consistently. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for a job, ask them out for coffee to get advice from them. What do they think are good skills you should be learning? What companies do they think are great and what companies do they think you should avoid? People are often flattered when you ask for their advice, and they’ll probably be more than happy to share what they know with you. Also, if they hear about something, they’ll likely think of you first!
If you don’t know anyone in the field you’re interested in pursuing, start making contacts. Go to networking events, ask for tours around companies, ask a friend to ask a friend. Whatever you need to do, talk to people who matter. This could make or break your job hunt.
Step Four: Exercise
I know what you’re thinking. “What is this? A health article now?!”
Sitting in front of a computer all day, scanning Craigslist and Kijiji and LinkedIn sounds like your priority — and don’t get me wrong, it is. But along with that, you need to be taking care of yourself mentally and physically.
Why? Because being unemployed is depressing. In 2013, Gallup phoned 356,599 Americans asking about their mental health. The rate of depression for adults with full-time jobs was about 5.6% — the rate for the unemployed was over twice that, sitting at roughly 12.4%. For adults who were unemployed for over a year, that number jumped to 19%!
This isn’t shocking when you consider that there are a myriad of factors that make unemployment depressing. Often we are dealing with financial stress, lack of motivation, lack of routine, low self-image, fear of the future, isolation from friends and family, among other things.
So for some people, being unemployed is a daily struggle. Their mental well-being and optimism begins to slip. They start to sleep in later (why wake up early? No work…), eat junk food or snack excessively, drink more alcohol or smoke more weed, and put off exercising. They tell themselves that they’re not good enough, so why would anyone want to hire them?
You get my point.
The amazing thing about exercise is that it is a safe and natural antidepressant. For people dealing with unemployment blues, having an exercise routine can bring back that positivity that they need. Physiologically, it helps fight depression, but it also can also increase self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Plus, it helps to look and feel your best when you’re walking into a job interview. You will radiate confidence, because…you’ll feel confident! Maybe you just lost 10–20–30lbs. Maybe now you can lift 300lbs. Maybe you just ran your first 5km! Whatever it is, it will give you a sense of accomplishment- which is important because you no longer have your job to bring that into your life.
Also, exercising can be free. Go for a walk. Pick up large water bottles and use them for bicep curls instead of dumb-bells. Use the many free workout Youtube channels available. Play pick-up soccer at a recreation soccer for $5. There’s no excuse you shouldn’t be able to work a little exercise into your life.
Step Five: Find what works and do it.
If I ever get a job interview (even for a job I don’t want), I go. Always. Every single time.
Because I want job interview practice. Job interviews can be really, really stressful and I find that the best way to feel confident during an interview is to be put into the same situation time and time again. You should have a pretty good idea about what questions will be brought up and how to answer them. You should be able to remain confident when talking about yourself and your skills. You should be able to negotiate a salary that works for you.
So, take all job interviews that come your way. If no job interviews are coming your way, practice with your family, friends, or SO. They can give you tips about things you should/shouldn’t say and ways to improve your chances of getting the job.
Along with that, you should have a solid resume that you’re sending out with cover letters. If you’re not getting calls and emails back, you need to go over your resume and cover letter again. Sometimes a little reformatting goes a long way. You can find different templates on Google Drive or Microsoft Word so just throw your information in there to liven it up a bit. Apparently the average amount of time recruiters spend looking at a resume is 5 to 7 seconds so make sure your resume catches their attention.
When you’re consistently getting call backs, that’s when you’ve hit the sweet spot.
Step Six: Get a Routine
Treat unemployment like it’s a job.
(No, Netflix doesn’t count.)
So, that means wake up at the same time every day. Eat breakfast and have a coffee. Go to the gym, or go for a walk with the dog, or do something relaxing to start your day. Have a shower, get dressed, and then….
….grind, grind, grind.
Make sure you have a purpose for your job search. Write it down and stick to it.
“Today, I’ll apply for 10 jobs.”
“Today, I’ll phone back that manager.”
“Today, I’ll scour Kijiji for 3 hours and apply to as many jobs as I can.”
I find it helpful to have a set period of time that I look for jobs. For me, that looks something like 9am — 1:00pm, job search. Lunch break! Then 1:30pm — 4pm, more job searching or learning about different skills that I think are important. 4pm onwards is my own time to do things like hang out with my SO, clean, cook dinner, and go to the gym.
The main thing to ask yourself is:
What small steps am I taking today to achieve my goal?
As I said above, unemployment can be depressing. You need to create a strong structure for you to feel like you’re accomplishing something every single day. If you have something written down (or something like a Kanban board), it’s a really great way to look back on the day and be like, “Yeah! I did all that stuff!” It helps to make you feel like, yes, even without having a job you’re still a functioning member of society.
So now you that have the tools to make the most of your unemployment , the only thing missing is you. I promise that if you follow these 6 steps, you should be well on your way to landing your next big job as soon as possible.
Do you have any tips or tricks you’ve used to get back into the workforce? If so, leave a like and a comment below!