How do you get the best from being unemployed?

Being unemployed can be a worrying time.  You worry about paying the bills, having enough money to buy food, and whether longer-term you’ll keep a roof over your head.  

In the first two years of self-employment, I must admit I found it tough.  For me, it was a big learning curve.  Despite networking like crazy across Essex, I didn’t have a contract or any clients.  I was technically unemployed and jobless!  It’s not a great place to be.

What I did have was many contacts and associates to network with and ask for help.  I remember talking to one of my associates and someone I volunteered with regularly… 

“I haven’t got a job”. His immediate response was, “Yes, you do. Your current job is to look for a job and you should treat it with the same commitment and focus.”

How do you approach your job search?

I’m working with several customers that are currently unemployed for various reasons.  I’ve noticed there’s a vast difference in their approach to finding a job.

Denial: Some of my customers spend too much time focused on the past.  They don’t want to accept that things have changed in the job market.  And, there’ll be one excuse after another as to why they haven’t even applied for any jobs.   

Lack of dedication: I have customers that don’t put enough time or effort into their job search.  They may browse on Indeed or click on a couple of links, but they’re more likely to get distracted than apply for jobs. 

Excuses: These are the job seekers that blame anything or anybody but don’t take ownership.  If there’s a problem it stops them from progressing, rather than looking for solutions. 

I worry that these methods will take them far longer to get an interview, let alone a job.  The main problems above are their mindset, attitude, and approach to finding a job.

By the way, I also work with people that I know instantly will take their job search seriously.  They put in the work, the time, and the effort.  These are the people that are likely to get a job quicker.  These types of people have the right attitude and they will approach the interview in the same way.  If they approach the interview with the same positive attitude, they are likely to be that way in work too.  All this has a positive knock-on effect. 

A positive approach and attitude to their job search is a good indicator of their approach and attitude in the job.  

Create a plan of action

It’s important to get super organized, keep records, and keep all your tailored cover letters and CVs.  You’ll need these tailored documents to take into the interview with you. 

Daily schedule:

  • 09.00 Respond to emails, messages, and review job alerts
  • 10:00 Review the various job boards relevant to your discipline, sector, and industry
  • 11:00 Tailor cover letter, CV, and application form to vacancies
  • 13:00 Lunchtime!  It’s important you take a break from job searching
  • 14:00 Social media networking with colleagues, peers, and ex-managers
  • 15:00 Prepare specific examples ready for an interview or prepare for a specific interview
  • 17:00 Pack up! Home time…or move to another room!

Benefits of planning 

View this period of unemployment as an opportunity.  An opportunity to spend your time wisely, learning, investing in personal development, and improving your skills.

How you spend this time will demonstrate your characteristics.  Are you determined to succeed?  Do you use your time effectively?  Have you got a can-do attitude?  Have you taken responsibility and taken action? 

Taking responsibility is impressive and a personality trait that will be of great value to most businesses.  

  • Keeps you focused
  • Gives you a sense of purpose
  • More chances of securing employment quicker
  • Gives you a daily routine 
  • Keeps you informed about jobs in the market
  • Maintains your knowledge 

Impress the interviewers even if you’ve been unemployed

It is likely interviewers will be asking how you’ve coped with lockdowns.  It will be a topic of conversation for many years ahead.  They may want to know how you have spent your time whilst unemployed.  How you’ve spent your time will give them lots of evidence about you as a person and your characteristics. 

Let’s take the examples above.  How you’ve approached your job search will give the interviewers plenty of evidence of how you are likely to approach work.  The candidates that haven’t approached their job search with determination and positivity, are likely to get caught out during the interview. 

Here are just some evidence of people who approach their job search seriously:

  • Disciplined
  • Organized 
  • Self-motivated
  • Self-driven
  • Determined
  • Career orientated
  • Takes pride in their work
  • Willing to invest in their personal development
  • Ability to learn new skills 
  • Willingness to keep their knowledge up to date

And, there are many more traits interviewers will gather from asking such a simple question like “How have you spent your time while unemployed?”

When an interviewer asks, “How have you spent your time?” – if you haven’t been focused on your job search or improving your career this is going to be a difficult question to make up on the spot. You are likely to get uncomfortable and try to make up an answer.  This is one of those questions interviewers are expecting a genuine and honest answer.  They are not looking for a textbook answer!  If you are honest, you are comfortable talking through the answers.  Thinking on your feet takes a lot more effort and if you’re not used to thinking on your feet, the answers are often delivered poorly. 

How have you spent your time whilst unemployed? 

If you have spent your time wisely during the last year, this will be of great benefit during the interview.  Even if you’ve been unemployed for a while, it’s okay if you have continued investing in yourself and your personal development: 

  • Share with the recruiters your daily job searching routine and action plan. 
  • Let the recruiters know what training you’ve done over the last year, and how it will benefit your ability to do the job. 
  • Talk about all the networking and keeping your knowledge current, and again how this benefits you doing a good job.     

After the Global crisis, I interviewed hundreds of people in banking who wanted to change their job.  I was surprised at the number of candidates that hadn’t planned their career.  Most using the Global crisis as an excuse.  How can you plan in this job market?  They missed the point of planning.  And, the crisis didn’t last…like most bad times they don’t last.  Having no direction and going with the flow might work short term.  Long term you may end up in a job that doesn’t motivate or inspire you.

Stand out from the crowd, plan your career, drive forward with positivity and go for the job you want.  You’ll get there, even if it’s one step at a time.