At first, being unemployed feels kind of like a forced vacation. You’re shocked and terrified about the future, but you feel okay giving yourself a week or two to hang out, relax and gather your wits. But then, assuming you don’t work in IT or Computer Engineering, you find yourself staring down what will likely be a long barrel of time spent trying to find a job. We talked about long-term unemployment and how to deal with it in our post Getting Through Being Unemployed.
Here’s the truth: finding a job today is different than it was before that blasted bubble burst. At the turn of the millennium you filled out a job application or sent in a resume, did an interview or two and bam! Hired! You were sitting down with HR and filling out your W-2. Today you need to do a little bit more. You need to be more creative if you want someone to give you the job you need and even more if you want someone to give you the job you want.
There Are No Small Roles. There Are Only Small Actors.
Stanislavsky said that (for the non-thespians out there, he’s the guy who basically made acting become what it is now) and it’s not just true in entertainment. It’s true everywhere. Sometimes you take a job that is absolutely beneath you simply because you have to pay the bills. If you’re at that point here’s some good news: finding your next job is going to be easier because most employers would rather hire someone already employed than someone who has been out of work for a while. Here’s the not so great news: you can’t do your current (beneath you) job halfway. You have to rock that job whatever it is. If you’re a file clerk, file like it’s your favorite thing to do. If you’re slinging coffee, every latte is your masterpiece! You get the idea.
Why are you doing this? You’re doing this for two reasons. The first is that it will make your days more manageable than if you’re simply pouting and staring at the clock. The second is that it will help you with your job search. Maybe your boss will see how great you are and promote you. Even if you don’t want to move up within that company, you can count on getting a great reference out of your great work. All the way around, you win.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Chances
Just because something isn’t exactly in your wheelhouse doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth exploring. Chances are Stormy Simon didn’t know much about eCommerce when she joined Overstock.com and now she helps run the place. She took a job there and then used her natural talents for management and a passion for customer service and changed Overstock from a company very few knew about to a company that we all recognize and even respect. She’s the one who said, “Why shouldn’t discount pricing sales include electronics and housewares? Why are we limiting ourselves just to clothes?”
You can do this too—the key is finding a company that will allow you the freedom to grow and lead. Starbucks is another great example of this believe it or not. The Frappuccino? It was invented by a couple of baristas on a hot day. So—taking what we talked about when we convinced you that there are no small jobs, what can you do to better your company and make yourself more valuable in the process?
Never Work for Free! …But What About Freelance?
It’s entirely possible that a company might be in need of your particular skills but not have the budget to bring anybody on staff right now. Why not offer to do the work as a freelancer or independent contractor? This is a win-win for both you and the person you’re trying to convince to pay you to be awesome. You get paid to be awesome and the company gets your awesome work but doesn’t have to worry about salary, benefits, etc.—they only pay for your actual work.
It sounds gross but the number of people who have used a freelance gig to land a full time or fully contracted gig will astound you. And hey, even if you don’t get put on staff there is the chance that the company will choose to continue to hire you as a freelancer. That works out well for you because it keeps your rent paid and allows you the freedom to keep looking for other work. You might even choose to stick with freelance full time.
Build Your Own Side Gig/Empire
There are some people who choose to continue freelancing instead of taking on staff positions. Some have even built a full time income around things like “gigging.” It’s a “Gig Economy” after all. Even if gigging isn’t really your thing, you can use it to keep busy and earn cash while you’re looking for that permanent position.
And as we’ve already mentioned—keeping busy is an important part of surviving unemployment!