Unemployment: The First 48 Hours

In homicide parlance, the first 48 hours of an investigation are crucial. If something positive is to be found, or the case resolved, it is likely that it will happen before 48 hours have elapsed. The longer the duration before a suspect is identified, the less likely a positive resolution becomes.

No one would suggest that you are most likely to obtain a suitable position within the first 2 days after layoff nor that your chances diminish after that time.

However, there are many aspects of unemployment and job search that need to be addressed as quickly as possible in order to develop a situation optimally organized for your eventual success.

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1. Review your finances.

Regardless of your confidence or optimism about swiftly obtaining an alternate position, batten your financial hatches against future storms. It is far more advantageous to prepare and not need it than to wait so long that your options become narrowed and your credit jeopardized.

Look at your monthly expenditures and identify where deferral (interest only) payments may be appropriate. This includes mortgage payments, auto loans, student loans, revolving credit accounts/cards, and any bank or personal loans. If you pay rent, reductions for a short period may not be available but a frank discussion of your situation with your landlord or manager can set the stage for more flexibility in case your shortage of funds later becomes acute.

Scrutinize your budget and see which items can be eliminated or which purchases delayed. If you are able to cut your regular payments through deferments, you may feel temporarily flush as your expenses have been lowered but the financial pressures of unemployment have not yet really kicked in. Be cautious. Tough financial times may be around the corner and the costs associated with job search can be substantially higher than you may have calculated.

2. Take a personal inventory.

Before you sit down to write your resume (or have it professionally prepared), you need to have all of your skills, experiences, strengths, and achievements at your fingertips. Think about all of the different tasks you have done at work over the past 5 to 10 years. Give yourself plenty of time and jot things down as you remember them. Over a period of a couple of days, you'll be amazed at how many projects and special assignments you will recall that had been all but forgotten.

Once you have all the raw data on paper, read through the Sunday Classified Ads of a major metropolitan newspaper. As you read them, highlight words and phrases that are in demand: multi-tasking, computer literacy, interpersonal skills, team player, ability to think outside the box, quality driven, attention to detail, ability to motivate.

Once you have completed this, you can start to pull your skills into a resume, using the language that employers demand. You probably won't list every experience or achievement you've had, but select key terms to emphasize. The information you leave out of your resume will not be lost as it will prove invaluable at an interview when you have the opportunity to provide more detail and more specifics.

When you have your resume drafted, have a friend or family member review it for errors. If possible, do a mock interview. You may find that someone else interprets what you have written in a totally different way than you intended. Adjust and rewrite until the descriptions are clear and convey your assets accurately and unequivocally.

3. Map out your campaign.

Any successful venture requires some planning and forethought. You may pride yourself on your spontaneity and your ability to just "dive in" but job searches are becoming longer and more frustrating than ever and you need to pace yourself to conserve energy, motivation, and enthusiasm.

Start with establishing some kind of immediate routine. It doesn't have to be a stringent undertaking although if you are a very structured individual you can make it as detailed as you like.

At least make a schedule of when you will be pursuing classified ads, the days you may visit agencies or job fairs, the evenings or early mornings when you will check out all appropriate job hotlines. Allow plenty of time for calling your contacts and build in time for both yourself and your family life.

Decide what time to get up and follow the early morning routine that was your custom when working. You may think it's stupid to shower, shave, brush your teeth, put on makeup, and dress when your plans for the day call for strictly telephone work.

Believe me, you sound different and project yourself better when you are in a business versus a casual mode. You will feel more motivated to make your calls and will feel that you are still connected to the world of work rather than the disconnect of sitting in a scruffy robe and bare feet.

Should one of your calls sound promising, you can heighten the receptivity of any employer by suggesting that you "come down right now." An employer views that as an indication of your enthusiasm, availability, and willingness to work at the drop of a hat. Stating that it will take you a couple of hours to get ready, or suggesting that the next day might be best, irrevocably stamps you as someone who has other priorities than finding immediate work.

4. Keep those cards and letters coming.

In job search, as we all know, the name of the game is contact, contact, contact. Reaching out to everyone you know or meet has been shown, over and over again, to be the key to successfully finding employment. Many larger companies pay employees a bonus for referring a new employee. Why? They know that the most satisfactory hires are made when a current competent employee vouches for someone. The interview becomes less confrontational because there is a less of a need to dig for hidden weakness or ferret out closet skeletons.

For your business contacts, former co-workers, friends, and family, make your calls in the routine discussed in #3. At the same time, be prepared to network anywhere - at the market, at a gas station, at the barber or beauty shop, at a social or sporting event. Always have a supply of your personal business cards with you (250 free cards are offered on several Internet sites) and always have a notepad and pen handy to jot down any leads or suggestions you hear.

While you don't have to wear a suit at a casual event, plan on always being neat, clean, and well-groomed wherever you go - you never know when that star contact will show up.

If you drink or gamble or take drugs, such groups as A.A., G.A., or N.A. can be wonderfully fertile grounds for job leads (but you may need to visit several groups before you find the right fit). More than one perfect position has been found on the golf links, in a bowling alley, or at a Little League game. Keep your eyes and ears open and don't be afraid to broach the subject of your "between jobs" status. If no one knows, no one can help.

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