Many who find themselves in the ranks of the newly unemployed devote a great deal of time to reading articles titled “How to Find a Job”, or something depressingly similar. With only a moderate investment of effort, one will come to find that the advice does not contain much variety either, for that matter. An excellent reason for this consistency is that it is good advice, and good advice is ordinarily quite sufficient on its own. In extraordinary circumstances – and one hopes our current national economic gloom qualifies as outside the norm – endlessly reading nearly identical articles devolves into a sort of desperate search for a magic employment button. There is no magic button, else we’d all be pushing it and we’d all have good jobs. What you’ll read here is also no magic button, but rather a more creative approach to unemployment known as “leaving no stone unturned”.
Briefly, let’s go over the good advice you’ll find in just about any other article. Looking for work is a job itself; spend your time accordingly. Update your CV. Learn a new job skill or improve existing skills. Utilise internet job search sites. Attend job-hunting seminars and job fairs. Go back to university. Start your own business. Update your appearance with a fresh haircut and decent career wear. These are all excellent tips which will likely play a large part in your landing that great new job. Ignore such sensible wisdom at your peril. While waiting for this common good sense to pay off, one might also put the following into play, to improve one’s chances and general stability in the meantime.
To start, pare your expenses ruthlessly. Having no job usually means having no income as well. Even if one is lucky enough to have unemployment or a severance package, these will not last forever. Ditch anything from the budget which is not an essential to either life or a job search. Cable television, entertainment expenses, and eating out are not essentials. Especially avoid retail therapy (making unnecessary purchases for the temporary emotional thrill of having a new possession) and the common bad advice to live off one’s credit cards. Unemployment may last a few weeks or even months but damaged credit will follow you for years, long after you’ve rediscovered job security. A period without steady income is the worst possible time to rack up huge debts, as it is also when one is least financially prepared to deal with those new debts. The two most common stressors to the unemployed are the feeling of professional failure and money woes; you can alleviate the latter by learning to practice frugal spending and streamlining the budget for hard times.
Make certain everyone knows you are looking for work. Most people know enough to advise the contents of their business Rolodex that they are now available for any new job opportunities. Take this notion to its furthest extremes. Tell your Aunt Sally to spread the word, ask about any job networking through your church, tell the sitter, the gas man, the girl behind the desk at the Post Office. Often the thinking goes that if someone in menial work knew about a better job they would then take it themselves, but this isn’t necessarily so. They might not have the job skills, experience or be available for full time work. Word-of-mouth is a great way to find those jobs which aren’t widely advertised, so make sure every mouth is speaking your name. It wouldn’t be the first time someone landed a job because of a tip from a neighbour’s cousin or Aunt Sally’s bridge club.
Take any job that comes along. This is a remarkably common stumbling block. After earning a nice income some people decide that anything less is too demeaning. That might be a fair point, too, that after the technical sector a job at a convenience store is embarrassing. In the real world pride might be a very fine thing, but it doesn’t pay that well. When your income is currently zero, a job with the county making £5-an-hour is a vast improvement. Sure, it isn’t the amount you were used to. You aren’t getting that amount at the moment though. You’re getting nothing. Zero. Do you really feel no income at all and living with your parents is preferable to some sort of gainful employment and regular wages? Suck it up and take what work you can find. Employers often find their full-time employees from those already working for them part time, and even a waitressing job will keep you stable while you continue to find more appropriate employment.
Move to an area with richer opportunities for financial comfort. Such an action doesn’t even occur to scores of job-seekers, for myriad reasons. Ties to the community, a desire to not uproot the family, the solace of familiar routine, or just plain inertia. Granted, relocation is a drastic step but, for the right people and under the proper circumstances, one could find this to be the best maneuver toward financial security. The cost of living in many formerly reasonable areas has become prohibitively high, such that any decent property is out of reach without a high income or two incomes. A job seeker might dismiss a move to a new area out of hand due to the lack of jobs available in their former income range without taking into account that the cost of living in the new town can be as much as a third of what they are used to paying. This is not logical; if you were now earning half your usual pay, but the living expenses are a third of what they once were, you have come out well ahead. This makes even more sense if you can easily find what one might consider to be a lesser job, which in those cheaper areas is considered a nice income. Why struggle to maintain a specific amount in your wage-slip when your real goal is not a particular sum, but rather a standard of financial comfort?
Start your own business. This is always mentioned in the usual advice and bears repeating as often as is necessary. What skills and hobbies do you have right now that are ignored or under-utilised in your current career path? There is an engineer from Birmingham whose hobby was handcrafted furniture; lamps, decorative sconces, even toilet paper holders and coffee table coasters. He manufactured high quality, expensive items purely for the enjoyment of working in his shop after work, and gave away the things he made as gifts. Most of his home was furnished with his own creations. Another man left the military, took a six-month course in barbering and opened his own barber shop.
The tried-and-true advice remains the best general advice, namely because it is tried and proven true. In extraordinary times, however, one might be best served by being as creative as possible and exploring less well-beaten paths – and if you question whether these times are mere typical down times or gloomier prospects best left unspoken, you need only remember the old saying: “A recession is when you lose your job, a depression is when I lose mine.”