Losing your job can be a shock, knocking out your self-confidence as well as your finances.
It can be hard to switch gears and start looking for a job, and even harder to keep your momentum going if your job search goes on for months. The employment situation is improving. But while the number of long-term unemployed—people jobless for 27 weeks or more—dipped in April to 3.5 million, down by 287,000 since March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, they still account for 35.3 percent of the unemployed.
Lower-skilled workers are more likely to have trouble finding work, but well-educated professionals are not immune to long-term unemployment. About 17 percent of the long-term unemployed hold a college degree, according to the Urban Institute.
What is the best insurance against joining the long-term unemployed? Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, offers some tough-love advice for the still-employed and newly unemployed.
- Don’t be a “company-head.” Getting overly immersed in the culture of your firm can lead to a false sense of job security—until for one reason or another, your company fails you and you end up unemployed. Stay in touch with colleagues outside and evaluate your own credentials frequently, from the point of view of “Who am I outside in the world? How do I stay attractive to employers?” advises Cohen.
- Get in front of your finances. If you lose your job, take stock of your financial situation immediately and figure out how much runway you have before you are short of cash. “That will offer some insight into how you need to operate,” says Cohen. Being ultra-frugal during a severance period may buy you time to get more training or enable you to keep hunting until you find the job you really want.
- Skip the support group. “Don’t surround yourself with people who are long-term unemployed,” says Cohen. “Typically the mood is very bleak and almost hopeless.” Instead, grab coffee with friends and colleagues who are actively employed or running a successful business, who will be in a position to refer you. “You need to be around people who are fresh, energetic and creative,” Cohen says.
- Embrace rejection. Getting caught up in shame that you haven’t gotten hired after an interview can slow your job-search efforts. Train yourself mentally to avoid that trap. “It is inevitable that when we put ourselves out in the market that we will get rejected,” says Cohen. “If we put ourselves out in many directions and have multiple conversations, that means we’ve got a lot of activity. The more activity you have the more likely that you will land successfully.”
- Rethink your requirements. Setting rigid rules for the types of jobs you will consider—such as insisting they be at a particular type of company or come with a specific title—will make it much harder to find work. “If have a checklist that removes any possibility for creativity and alternatives, you are limiting the option available to you,” says Cohen. “It’s like dating.”