Living The Laid-Off Life No More, Part I

Nancy Anderson
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"Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again." - Billy Joel
Well, after nearly (500) Days of Unemployment, your friendly neighborhood columnist is leaving The Laid-Off Life for full-time employment. Monday-to-Friday, 40-hour week, health-insurance-and-401(k) kinda stuff. The Laid-Off Life will now be The Newly-Employed Life, at least for an audience of one. Excuse me if I throw myself a party.

How did I get so lucky, you ask? Simple. Persistence, hard work, smart work, laboring through rejection, staying focused, and doing the little but often overlooked things that help you get an interview and get hired. I’ve been pushing these concepts for many months now, the ways you can and must make the extra effort. Many of us – myself included – are excellent interviewees. But you’re never going to get to show off that talent until you get your résumé noticed and are heard above the din. Let’s take a look back at a collection of the things that not only I have been doing, but the things I’ve encouraged you to do as well. Class, please open your textbooks and follow along.

Use social networking and its tools to the best of your advantage. Be on Facebook and Twitter and follow/friend/like all the job-hunting sites to keep apprised of jobs, leads, and news. 'Like' and your specific Nexxt interests on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Do the same for all the great organizations out there like HireFriday, TweetMyJobs, and TweetAJob. Sign up for job tweets, and read all the useful columns and stories they provide and repost.

Post your résumé online and Tweet it on #HireFriday and #FF hashtag lists. Find a great site on which to post a public résumé to send people to, like on Nexxt and great portfolio sites like WritersResidence (where I host my résumé). Make sure you make your résumés keyword-friendly, simple to find, simple to read, and simple to peruse. Make yourself a personal business card.

Use your own social network to stay up on goings-on in your industry, or in the job market in general. And the hard truth is that the number-one best way to find a job is through real-life or social-life friends. Don’t be afraid to hit up all of your social network friends about your job search. They may have a job at their company available, or they might be passed on a job by a friend that they are not interested in but you may be, or they may hear of something around that you’d be perfect for. Or maybe they have something they can even hire you directly for! Everyone – everyone – in your life should know you are looking for work because anyone could be the key to that elusive opening.

Augment your favorite job search aggregation sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, or PhillyJobs with smart searches through Craigslist. So many good jobs are listed there because it’s a) easy and b) cheap. Don’t forget to keep looking through newspapers (and their websites) because their job classifieds are still relevant. And search the trade magazines in whatever field you are in for jobs that may not be listed elsewhere. Trade journals are a much-underutilized source of job listings, and info about your industry.

Use LinkedIn wisely. Use it to find companies that you’d love to work for, and see who works there and if you share LinkedIn groups. Group what now? Go join all the LinkedIn groups that you can that apply to you. Industries you’re in, interests you have, alumni groups of former employers and schools. Not only can you get tips on jobs you might not find elsewhere, but if you find a company you’re targeting for work, you can find employees who share a group and contact them directly because you share a group. You never know when you can get an 'in'. And when applying to jobs, use LinkedIn to research as many aspects as you can about the company and use the information you find in applications, follow-ups, and interviews. LinkedIn is where the adults are. Use it.

Smartly and surgically find reputable placement and temp agencies to help in your job search. They don’t get paid unless you do, so they are on your side. There are agencies that specialize in temporary or freelance work, and others that stick to a specific industry. Contact them, and ask to join their bullpen of talent. And keep on them to make sure you’re name is constantly on the top of their placement lists. Many of their jobs are freelance or part-time but can easily turn in to full-time opportunities. Take advantage of this. And while you’re job searching, file for Unemployment Compensation benefits. Contact your state UC office and make sure you are getting everything that you have coming to you legally. And don’t believe the news hype: there are still plenty of UC benefits out there to be had. Food stamps? You’re not too good for it. Apply, and if you qualify, that’s another hundred bucks or so a month off your plate. Take freelance jobs if you wish, take part time jobs if necessary. Just because finding a job is a full-time job doesn’t mean that you have to start living out of cardboard boxes in the ally behind Subway.

When applying to jobs, do so smartly. Customize your cover letter to the job you’re applying and the person you’re applying to. Do the research and make sure your emails have someone’s name on them; that they are addressed to a particular person. Keep your cover letter short, and use it as an intro to your résumé, not as a rehashing of it. And make sure your résumé is targeted at that specific job. Highlight what makes you best for the job, and gives the reader information specifically molded to easily and simply show that your skills and experience match the skills and experience of the job you’re applying to. And sprinkle your résumé with keywords, even ones directly lifted from the job listing. Chances are, your résumé will be read by a keyword-searching computer before it ever gets to a person.

Don’t be afraid of cold-calling (or cold-emailing) companies you are interested in working for. Find email addresses online on Google and LinkedIn. Find people you know at the company on LinkedIn, or find people that work there on Twitter and follow them. Then email them and tell them how much you love their company and not only how much you want to work there, but why they’d be better off with you than they are without you. That’s a key when talking to companies about positions: it’s not about how great the job is or even how great you are. Don’t tell them what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company. Every point should reinforce the fact that you can make them better. You’d be surprised how often cold calls or cold emails get results (foreshadow!). What it shows is that you want to work there, you are interested in them, and who doesn’t love that?

So, my friends, that’s a good, concise look at many of the things I encourage you to do to help attract attention to your most wonderful qualities and to your résumé for a greater chance of catching the eye of someone who wants to know more about you. In Part II of 'The Laid Off Life No More', we’ll touch on what to do once you’ve snagged that ever-elusive interview, to set you on the path to full-time employed person.

Sorry boys and girls, that’s all we have for story time today. So, much like 'Back To The Future', we’ll pick up right here with 'Part II: Electric Boogaloo' in the next column. (After Friday October 15, 8amET, click here for Part Two: Living The Laid-Off Life No More, Part II). But you will have to supply your own hoverboard.

Michael Hochman
? Laid-Off Life on Twitter ? Laid-Off Life on Facebook

Michael is a Copywriter, Creative Marketer, and Broadcasting Professional who has finally found a full-time job after 16 months of full-time job hunting after an "involuntary career sabbatical". A Philly native and Syracuse graduate, Michael is happy to be rejoining the rat race as a slightly older, slightly smarter rat.

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar." - Drew Carey

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