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What Next for the Unemployed?

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Optimistic governments and economists may be seeing the first signs of recovery from the global recession, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to be any easier for employees. With businesses still looking to cut costs and staff wages being amongst the highest overheads, the job market is likely to remain tough, and possibly deteriorate further, even as economic conditions improve. Employment tends to suffer a time lag in the economic cycle.

It can be incredibly demoralising to be unemployed, whether you’ve been looking for a job for a while or have just been made redundant. The temptation, for some at least, can be to take to bed with a bottle of vodka and a box of tissues. Others will throw themselves into their hobbies, but most people tend to start looking for a replacement job straight away.

While commendable, this may not bo the best strategy. Out jobs are such an integral part of our lives, our identities, yet we don’t tend to give our careers the time and attention they deserve. A better approach might be to take time to get over the shock of no longer having to go to the office every morning, take a step back and assess the situation. How long this process takes will vary. Regardless, it does you good to take stock of how you have ended up where you are, and where you would like to go next.

How did you end up in your last job? Was it in a sector you had imagined working in? Was it a job you enjoyed or was waking up each morning a torment? What have you always dreamed of doing? The answers to each of these questions will depend on individual circumstances, but they can help point you towards your next step. If you’ve always fancied working for yourself, any severance or redundancy pay you received could be useful seed money. If you ended up in banking but had always intended to work in PR,now may be the time to see if you can transfer your skills. Or it could be that you were entirely content in your job and want to get back into something similar as quickly as possible. Whatever the answers to the questions, it is important to have an idea of what you’re going to do next before plunging headlong into any new endeavour.

In addition to the usual newspaper advers and recruitment agencies, today’s jobseekers have a plethora of options available. Online there are job boards and forums, businesses advertise vacancies on their own websites and anyone can advertise their services on sites like Craigslist or Gumtree. It’s important to remember, however, that most jobs are never advertised, so keep networking. If you did disappear under a blanket with a bottle of vodka, now is the time to sober up and start hitting the phone. Let your contacts know that you’re available and what you’re looking for, ask them if there are any openings at their places of work. Don’t be embarassed; everyone knows that times are tough right now.

Alog with all of the job search options, I’ve also notices that coaching is one area that’s growing. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, anything that makes people more confident about their job search is commendable. But there is something off about charging people to attend seminars where they are more likely to be given the hard sell for books, tapes or sign-ups to further seminars rather than receive any practical advice, especialy when they may be using their savings to pay the fees. In the end it may be better to take the DIY approach and coach yourself.

Don’t forget to keep your skills up to date and don’t slack off monitoring trends and issues in your industry sector. While looking for work can be a full-time job in itself, take a little time in each day to do some personal maintenance. If parts of your CV could do with a plish, get some books from the library to teach yourself any new skills that might help secure your next position. If you’re willing to put in the time, consider going back into education. Unless you were sacked for imcompetence, it’s not you fault you lost your job; anything you do to make yourself more employable can only be A Good Thing.

It’s impossible to say when employment will begin to rise again, or which sectors of the economy will be the first to recover. That does not mean there are not decent jobs out there, it’s just that they are harder to find. For anyone out of work at the moment, resilience and perseverance and personality traits that will come in very useful. It’s important to remember that it’s not you, it’s the economy. All you can do is make yourself as appealing a potential employee as possible while we all wait for the tide to turn.

[Image by Usag.Yongsan]

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