At some point in your career, it’s likely you’ll face unemployment: whether it takes you awhile to find a job after graduation or you are the victim of a round of corporate layoffs. Workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim says today’s global marketplace makes many positions disposable. “Organizations aren’t as committed to their employees, and employees aren’t as committed to their organizations. As such, long-standing tenure within organizations is much less common,” she says.
So when you’re out high and dry–and anxiously eyeing your savings account–what’s the best approach to job searching? Career branding expert Wendi Weiner says recent data suggest it takes at least six weeks–and up to eight months–to earn an offer letter, making what you do during this idle time vital. Marrying a sharp focus with tenacious hustling and a picky attitude is the best way to approach your career pursuits as you set a three-month goal for yourself. Here’s your expert-approved guide through the process:
Though you could be struggling with nerves, the first seven days also mean mornings sleeping in and catching up on the latest Netflix obsession. Hakim says not to give yourself too much of a hard time over this sluggish session, since it can actually do wonders for your psyche: “Allow yourself the chance to mourn your old job and to make peace with the change. This clarity of mind can help you to determine next steps, career wise, too,” she says.
You shouldn’t be completely unproductive though. “Research companies of interest and create a spreadsheet,” Weiner says. “Begin to research who are the key players at the companies, the positions available, and the target positions you are seeking.”
Don’t have the appetite to start networking in person yet? You can still set yourself up for future elbow-rubbing by updating all of your career documents and profiles, Weiner adds. From your LinkedIn profile to your resume and cover letter template, this will make the application process that much more seamless once you’re ready to put yourself out there. Don’t forget about recommendations, either—now is the time to reconnect with a former boss, a trusted mentor, or a colleague who will happily sing your praises, Hakim reminds.
One month in
Check yourself: By now you should have at least secured a few in-person interviews, attended networking lunches or functions, and sent out plenty of job applications. If you’re not getting yourself out there, you’re falling behind, according to the experts. Nearly 70% of all jobs are won via networking. This is the time when you should be shouting from the rooftops that you’re competitive, desired, and available for the right opportunity. “Your goal is to be noticed and recognized as a thought leader. Ask connections to introduce you to key players in your field. Ask others if they know of a job or of a person who might be able to help. Without being pushy or presumptuous, we get what we need when we ask for it,” Hakim explains.
Don’t forget to take copious notes about your experiences, whether face-to-face or digitally. This helps you concentrate on progress and pave the way for your next follow-up or interaction. “Have a column for notes/feedback so that you aren’t duplicating your efforts. You don’t want to haphazardly contact the same person or same company twice with that first email communication,” Weiner warns. “You also want to chart when you are receiving/sending responses to companies so that you are being proactive.”
Six weeks in
If you’ve been following your homework diligently, Weiner predicts you’re in the middle of second and third rounds of interviews, with an offer formulating on the horizon. Even if you think you’re this close to securing a job, it’s important as ever to remain active. You want to ensure your network continues to sprout, just in case you’re passed over for an opportunity you think you have in the bag. “Consider attending networking events, professional conferences, and events in your industry and niche so that you are building a strong network of connectivity with others,” she says.
During this time, you might start to lose your steam–especially if receive a few rejections–so don’t forget to prioritize your health, too. Weiner says job seekers should commit to one healthy habit a day–from healthy meals and exercise to soaking up vitamin D outside and creating a budget–to keep a positive attitude. After all, showing up cranky to an interview won’t bode well for your chances.
Two months In
Are you still showering daily? How much coffee are you drinking? How about booze? When unemployed folk reach the two-month mark, it’s normal–and expected–to feel frustrated with the process. As tough as it is to push through your growing insecurity in your abilities, Weiner says your tenacity will win in the long run.
To help you get through the many rejection levels and ghosters, she suggests setting up a daily schedule to keep your mind occupied–instead of spiraling. “Spend a few hours in the morning researching jobs, and spend the afternoon reaching out to the major contacts at those jobs. Continue being proactive, but also stick to a schedule. If you are staring at your computer all day waiting for the phone to ring, you will find yourself continuing to stress. Head to the gym for a daily workout, or go to the park,” she says.
Another effective way to boost your morale, according to Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi, is to reach out to trusted colleagues or friends who have also faced unemployment for an extended period. Use their experience to compare notes, find holes you might be missing, and, of course, remind you of how super-talented and stellar you are.
After three months
Sure, months fly by quickly when you’re busy pulling late-nighters for a new client or waking up early to catch a business-class red-eye to London–but when you’re unemployed? Each day feels endless and deafening. Twelve weeks into unemployment and you’re understandably fed up. Instead of accepting defeat, challenge yourself to approach your job search with strategy–and flexibility.
Hakim says many people have too narrow of a pool in the beginning: Are there other geographical areas you’re open to? Roles that might also work for your skill set? A lateral move instead of one that propels you upwards? Have you already forgotten about professionals you connected with in month one? What are they up to now? What advice do they have for you? These questions might not be the easiest to stomach or process, but they could mean the difference between a “yes” and a “no.”
Salemi adds that a critical eye toward your progress could also prove beneficial, since you might have grown a tad lazier as time has passed. And perhaps too rose-colored about the “perfect job” instead of one that could serve its purpose for now. “Have you been landing phone interviews, but not office interviews? Are you thinking broadly enough–maybe there’s a company that has an awesome part-time opportunity that can, in due time, be parlayed into a full-time one? Think outside the box in ways you can earn money, contribute your valuable skill set to an organization, and stay busy,” she says.
Bottom line? The busier you keep yourself during this period–from applying and side-hustling to keeping a go-get-’em mindset–the more likely you’ll pull out of the unemployment bracket and into your new office.