I’ll let you all in on a little secret – well maybe not a secret but a fact that I don’t really advertise much: I am presently unemployed. And whoo boy did I pick one heckuva time to be unemployed in our great capital city! To that end, I want to post some tips that I’ve found to be helpful in my own job-hunting:
1. Keep your resume updated.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but one that is easily overlooked if you are in a comfortable job. Take me: I loved it so much and had every intention of staying, but darn life gets in the way. And I was unprepared. I kinda had a resume ready, but I had not given it a good refresh in years. So the first couple weeks of my unemployment I spent getting feedback on my resume and rewriting a million different forms of it. The time that was spent on writing those resumes is time that could have been spent actively interviewing and job-hunting.
2. Get in a routine.
This can be hard. Our first instinct if we don’t have a job may be to stay in bed all day, binge watch shows you’ve been meaning to catch up on, and order takeout. And while I do think taking time to rest is a good start, you also want to get into a routine before you get too lazy. Some quick tips: set your alarm for a reasonable time (7am or 8am), make your bed when you get up, get dressed and ready (brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on makeup if so desired) shortly thereafter, and even put on shoes. Block out times in your days for different activities: searching job sites, putting together lists, exercising, running errands. And try to stick to a routine as much as you can. It will help your mood and keep you accountable to yourself.
3. Do a few skills assessments and personality tests.
Taking the time out while job-hunting to better understand who you are will help you decide what kinds of jobs you do or do not want in the future. I’ve found that my alumni organizations, and their connections to career service offices have been a good place to go for personality/work style tests. Go ahead and take (or re-take) some test to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
4. Reach beyond what you know.
For me this means never turning down a chance to have a conversation, or interview for a job. Ok, so maybe a particular career may not be what I want, but how do I know if I don’t even ask? For example, as part of my job-hunting I’ve been interviewing with a hedge fund – a career move that has never been within my realm of possibility. I’ve also reached out to a lot of people in my networks who I don’t really know all that well, but whose work I admire. And guess what – people responded! As a general rule, I’ve found that most people are incredibly willing to take the time to share their own career stories (we all love to talk about ourselves). So take advantage of this fact and meet up with people in different career areas.
5. Follow the money while job-hunting.
And by this I don’t mean to look for the jobs that pay the most. Instead, follow where money and resources are being diverted or invested. Right now that means looking for federal jobs in the DOD and DHS. And even if you love the mission of the the EPA and the State Department – now may not be the best time to look there. This is especially true if you are new to federal jobs – often you just need to get within the system and then figure out where else you can move. For non-federal government, as one wise practicing anthropologist told me, follow where people are donating. In the current political climate, organizations that have anything to do with civil liberties, rights and the environment are receiving large amounts of donations – so take advantage of this fact and look there for employment.
“So all of the above is well, and good,” you may say, “but you are still unemployed.” The irony is not lost on me, but at the same time sometimes being in the midst of a struggle can provide clarity on what is helpful, and what isn’t. At the very least this post is a way to tell myself that hope is not lost. Also there are so many things you can do now to prepare so that when that hiring freeze is lifted, or when agencies start hiring again, we will be in the best position to make the most of it and make an exciting career or life change. Onward & upward!