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How to deal with a brief unemployment period?

IR #070

Being in between jobs is one of the most stressful periods one can face irrespective of whatever stage one is in the career. For the junior levels, it can lead to doubt in one’s capabilities and the feeling of being on the back foot at the early stages of a career. Mid to senior levels are concerned about having a break in their career and how to explain it to recruiters. Senior to top management is concerned if they can actually find a job that will not seem to be a step down from their previous role.

Please note I am not even going to touch the effects on a personal level for people in this precarious situation. As I myself have been in this situation before in my life so far (am going through a self-imposed break to realign my career objectives as I write this), I learnt that a few things done in the right way can not only relieve the stress and depression one goes through in this period, it can also help when we face a recruiter the next time.

Here are a few things that I did that ensured that I managed to not only not get into fits of depression but also created habits and activities that impressed my future employers.

  • Job hunting is a full-time job. So treat every day the same as you would if you were going to work. Wake up at the same time, take a shower, shave and get out of your pajamas. You do not have to wear a suit at home but be prepared to go for an interview at short notice.
  • Set daily tasks and targets. Manage your time in visiting job sites, sending out cold emails to potential recruiters or any other activity that you do in your job search. Make lists of dream companies where you would like to work and try connecting with people who work there or visit their websites. Many companies do not post their jobs on job boards.
  • Perfect your pitch. What other time would be perfect to work on your pitch? There are three main pitches you have to work on. The most important being the answer to the “Tell me about yourself” question that is by default the first question most recruiters ask. Second is your cold email text. This is the body of the email you send to potential recruiters. Third, although I personally feel that it is quite outdated, is your cover letter. Make multiple versions of all three and then finally, zero down on one each that perfectly describes you.
  • Get your “reason for leaving” story right. I am totally against lying during an interview. I do not recommend you come up with a fantastic storyline as to why you are looking for the job. Be honest but that does not mean you become so blunt that you say, “I was fired for poor performance.” Being laid off is not a stigma in today’s world anymore so do not feel ashamed to admit that you were. Ensure that your back story (Reasons leading up to the layoff) is explained clearly while highlighting the positives during your previous stints. If you were fired for fraud or malpractice… You are on your own.
  • Introspect. This brief period gives you an opportunity to take time and think about your career. Is this your passion or are you in it just for the money? What would you like to accomplish in your 30 odd years of working? There are numerous questions that you can ask yourself. I had made a list of 15 questions and tackled one question a day. Did the research, read, studied and wrote down my thoughts. At the end of the cycle, I would revisit the same question and check if I still felt the same. I still do it irrespective of whether I am employed or not.
  • Start a hobby. There is surely no person on this planet who never had a hobby or interest. Revisit it and stick with it. In my case, I always loved to write. I started my blog The Book Of Ojuufo when I was in between jobs and am really happy to say that it is slowly blossoming into a popular blog. Plus I got the opportunity to have my own column here on The Arabian Post solely based on the contents of my blog.
  • Learn something new. I have always been a fan of lifelong learning. Pick out an interesting topic or thing you would like to learn and devote a few hours a day towards it. During my last break, I got my certificate in Communications from the University of Amsterdam. Now I am planning to learn Android development if this break is confirmed. It also gives you an angle to communicate with the recruitment officer. “I have been using this time to learn basic accounting along with looking for new opportunities” sounds so much better than “I have been applying and attending interviews during this period.”
  • Network. Connect with people both on social media as well as in person. If not resulting in a job directly, you will manage to be on the mind of your connections who could point you to a job opening or provide you with a reference.
  • Smile and remain upbeat. This transition phase can be tough on everyone. The key is to not let it discourage you. Find reasons to smile and remain optimistic. Recruiters are like sharks. If they even smell the slightest trace of blood (desperation), they go for the kill (Negotiate like crazy on your package).

None of this will guarantee that you land your dream job. But it is sure to keep you active and focused on your job hunt. Apart from that, you will build that personality that recruiters will want to, at least, meet for an interview.

This article was originally published on Arabian Post

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