In such a competitive job market, it's not uncommon for professionals in any industry and at any pay grade to find themselves out of work. Nonetheless, there is no way around the fact that the lack of steady income and stimulation that accompany unemployment can be incredibly stressful.
However, the worst thing you can do while unemployed is spend your days sulking in a bathrobe, dwelling on how bad the situation is while drowning your sorrows in a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.
To avoid that unfortunate scenario, here are a few strategies to help fight the uphill battle into a new job.
1. Remember that your new job is finding a job. When you're let go or if you spontaneously quit, you likely want to get back on the horse quickly. And when starting out, it's of dire importance to be proactive rather than reactive.
With that in mind, it's wise to get up early, shower and get fully dressed to maintain a professional mind set as if you were going to the office. The only difference is now, your responsibilities include being the first to evaluate new openings on job boards, follow up with recruiters and employment leads, reach out to your network, write emails and make phone calls.
If you lost the chance to interview for a great job because someone else got the wheels turning first, that extra hour or two of shut-eye won't be nearly as satisfying.
Also, because a call or message with your next opportunity could come in at any moment, it's important to have a professional email address and voice mail. While it may have been acceptable to keep your adolescent AOL account and eighth grade voice mail while you had a job, you don't want those kinds of easily changeable characteristics to leave a negative impression on hiring managers and recruiters and stand in the way.
If you do decide to sleep until noon, consider letting your professional calls go until you wash the sleepies from your eyes and can talk without sounding like you just woke up.
2. Avoid being the network jerk. Lots of people don't like networking because of "networks jerks:" annoying pariahs who shuffle around the room, talking only about themselves and poorly feigning interest in those around them (sometimes they at least provide a sturdy business card you can clean your teeth with though).
To avoid this characterization, it's important to focus on building relationships rather than unabashedly pandering for favors once you lose your job. With that in mind, you would be well-advised to first see what you can offer network contacts before reaching out for a favor.
One of the easiest strategies is simply paying attention to the professional and personal interests of a contact, then starting a conversation or sending over resources that speak to those interests.
For example, if you wanted to tap a contact in marketing, start a dialogue around a Gartner study that suggests chief marketing officers will be investing more on tech than chief information officers by 2015. Or, if you discover your contact is a big Lakers fan, mention how impressed you've been with Kobe's monster season. This will likely leave your network contacts feeling warmer and more positive toward you, exponentially increasing the chances that they'll use their resources for your benefit.
3. Make sure you stay on top of your skills. Too often, professionals who lose their job allow their skills to rust while searching for the next opportunity. Similarly, professionals formerly responsible for only one type of task may fail to broaden their knowledge base once they discontinue employment somewhere.
To avoid this scenario, it's smart to use the moments between sending out applications and following up with leads sharpening your abilities to increase your appeal. This is especially important for technical professionals who need to stay on top of new software iterations and trending programs to retain a competitive edge over the legions of others seeking new work.
4. Take effective notes. In the interview world, there are few excuses for getting the same question wrong twice. So whether you crumbled under the pressure of a problem-solving question, whiffed a technical question or lost your composure at the "biggest weakness" bomb, be sure to do your research and prepare next time with the best answer possible to that question. You have the opportunity to recognize and fix your shortcomings while seeking new work, so take note of where you can improve and prepare to patch the holes when you next have the chance.
5. Don't come off as desperate (even if you are). This one is tough. The bills could pile up and your self-confidence badly bruise when you're not working. But, while you might need to have a little personal freak out every now and again, you should maintain an even keel when you go into a job interview for a prospective position. Few employers are drawn to candidates who are virtually begging.
If you spend your days refining your abilities and mending gaps in your skills, there's no reason why you can't meet a hiring manager with the confidence and poise of a man or woman with many options elsewhere.
Think of it like dating. You might have the worst slump of your life, but nonetheless, you have to play it cool when that special someone comes along, lest you ruin your chances of developing a relationship.
Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions—an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media.