Career

Unemployed: You need to find a job – and time is running out

Advice to help you make the tough choices while job hunting.

This article is written as one in a series covering job loss, job change, and job retraining. This article is specifically for career professionals who find themselves in a very difficult position because of COVID; however, there is plenty of advice that applies universally here.

How worried should you be right now?

If you’ve been made redundant, or are currently unemployed, with such uncertainty and instability as a global backdrop, you’re likely worried. You may be worried about the now, the near term, about being able to afford living. Or, if you’re unemployed but you’ve got a decent support structure in place, such as savings, a supportive friends and family network, or alternative income, you may be more concerned about the longer term and how the employment market will develop.

At the point this article is being written, it is mid-July, 2020. We have seen global numbers of COVID cases soar and then decline in most countries across the world, save some notable exceptions, like the U.S., which continues to rise. There has been significant economic impact in the first half of the year, but actual ramifications have only just begun to manifest themselves now, as we are starting to see the first rounds of layoffs and the financial impacts kick in.

So, how worried should you be?

There is case to argue, that we may be at just the start of a prolonged and serious downturn.

And because of this possibility, as someone who is unemployed, getting back into the job market is no longer a simple problem. There are a multitude of complications to consider, like macro considerations:

  • duration of pandemic – some researchers indicate 2nd, 3rd, and ongoing waves of varying magnitudes, given potential viral mutations and vaccine development
  • extent of government support
  • impact of prolonged government support on the wider economy – no one is entirely sure, like in 2008, about the impact of central banks printing significant sums to fund COVID relief, although there are proponents on either side of the argument as to the severity of negative impact
  • depth of layoffs, and cross sector contamination, leading to a saturated job market – as layoffs happen, first in affected sectors, other secondary sectors will also be affected downstream – causing the job market across sectors to stagnate

And on a direct, personal level:

  • is my industry going to be affected? How much?
  • how employable am I really – now, 6 months from now, 12 months – if any of the above macro comes true? Should I do something to safeguard against this?

How your human psychology is working against you right now

Unfortunately, your human brain is actually likely convincing you that the future is brighter than it might actually be.

In a study from New York University, researchers have found that

“as humans, we expect to live longer and be more successful than average, and we underestimate our likelihood of getting a divorce or having cancer”

How The Brain Generates The Human Tendency For Optimism – NYU 2007

you can read the article from sciencedaily.com here

The researchers found that participants in their study were more likely to expect positive events to happen closer in the future than negative events, and to imagine them with greater vividness.

This is why taking action now for the future, or changing course to prepare, is actually very difficult to do because it’s actually contrary to how our brains are wired; which is why, often people fail to act until it is too late.

Because people hold on to hope, and thus we do not plan for the possibility of a bad future.

This is why many of us are holding on to the hopes that things will improve quickly and we’ll be back to normal, even if the indications are there.

Put aside misguided hope and start doing something, now

You need to put aside the vague hope of conditions improving (somewhat magically), set aside your brain’s fuzzy comfort blanket, and make some thorough planning right now.

Take stock: take a good, long, hard look at your employability, especially in light of today’s developments, and take decisive action, now.

What you absolutely don’t want is to look back in six months, one year’s time, and see that you haven’t made any progress towards securing your future.

You need to make some tough choices now to ensure future wellbeing.

What can I do?

The very first step you must take – is making the decision right now to stop hoping, and start doing.

This is the difference between carrying on, with your same CV, your same tactics, as weeks turn into months, thinking that the market will improve, or you’ll eventually land something. You may also be thinking that this is about preserving your dream career, or an area of work that gives you joy. Don’t. Try to reframe your actions into steps of urgency – what needs to happen, by when.

This means the next step is to devise a course of action. Try to distinguish for yourself exactly what you want, specifically dictated by urgency. For example, a plan could look like this, based on your view of what your “career of choice” looks like, and what that job market could look like in the future:

  1. In the immediate – get cash in the door
  2. In the mid term – secure a segue career
  3. In the long term – find your career of choice

Divide up your time and develop a plan to attack each

You should spend most of your waking time developing leads in each of the three categories. But this should be done in order of priority: so that means spending more time trying to secure the immediate and developing skills for a segue career, and then slowly building the assets you need to secure your dream career of the future. Do not waiver here – make sure to devote the right amount of time each day to each category.

I’ll provide a summary of these timelines here, but will keep it succinct due to length. For those of you who are interested in more details, including how to secure these, please subscribe to access our premium content.

In the immediate – get cash in the door

This may not be as immediate as it should be to you, but the view is that any income coming in will stem the tide of negative balance. This would require, ideally, securing some kind of work on a part-time, or temporary basis, to give you extra time to develop skills for the segue career and your dream job. (For some, working part time unfortunately isn’t an option, and this will have to be done on a full time basis. Nevertheless, as difficult as it may be, you have to develop following with what spare time you may have.)

In the mid term – secure a segue career

This is equally as important. This does indeed mean considering a career change, or retraining: it is a significant change to face unfortunate career headwinds. Given that we may be heading into a recession, you may need to consider developing the skills in a career that offers you some flexibility, a better income, and most importantly, is more future proof. Spend what extra time you have now getting yourself ready over the mid-term for this career change.

In the long term – find your career of choice

Perhaps you were already working in this field before you lost your job, and if that is the case – for reasons beyond your control, this industry is no longer a viable option for you in the near to mid term. This is not to say that it won’t return in the future, but there is a long road between now and then.

Regardless of the specifics, the principle here is to develop the skills you need for this field and look at this option as a long game option, as you prioritise the above.

Securing roles in the short term, mid term, and long term

If you’re in the awful position of being unemployed at the brink of recession, you’ll unfortunately need to swallow some awful truths. The goal is to get you to that dream career of yours once again – but we’ll have to consider what that means and how to get you there.

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Some other notes:

  • Write several CVs for different goals and different roles.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot, if not all, of your waking time doing this.
  • Do not say “no” early; say it late, if at all. Be open minded about what you can, and can’t do.

Conclusion

Stay positive, and attack each day. This is an important one. It is very, very easy to despair and wallow, but at the end of the day, you’ll have achieved absolutely nothing. In fact, staying positive is an active choice to do something about this mess.

I’m not suggesting that the above list will solve everyone’s problems. But I am suggesting that doing the same thing every day is not going to, either. I’m encouraging everyone out there who is worried to look hard and fast at what they are currently doing, and where they’re aiming – and I’m asking you to look at it differently. There may be a solution there you haven’t yet tried.

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