How to Look for a Job, Whether You’re Currently Employed or Not

Whether or not you see it coming, being laid off tends to feel like a punch in the gut. More experienced professionals may, to some degree, expect it, as age discrimination is rampant. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier. When there are rounds of layoffs, people tend to be a tiny bit more aware of the possibility. Still, it’s challenging to process. So, what do you do?

First, if you’re physically able to, increase the amount of exercise that you get. This isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s about processing the stress that comes with a job search. The more exercise, the less stress. Whatever you can do will help. This is especially true just before interviews, but, it’s also helpful on a regular basis as you go through your job hunt.

Second, make a list of everyone you’ve ever worked with who you believe respected your work. It doesn’t matter if you reported to those people, or if they reported to you, or if they were in other departments. If they respected your professional contribution, they may be able to assist you.

Once you’ve completed the list, start calling everyone. Have a brief, well-prepared speech. Three or four sentences tops. Be direct. Let them know that you’ve been laid off and you’re looking for a role doing X, Y and Z. Be realistic about geography; if you can’t commute four hours a day, don’t pretend that you can. If relocation is out of the question, state that. Give some indication of the total compensation you’re seeking. Ask them to keep you in mind if they learn of something.

Third, save your energy. Funneling energy into trying to understand why you were laid off, or what you could have done to prevent it, is a waste of time. Talking with other former colleagues who were laid off, or are unhappy, isn’t a good use of energy. Instead, it’s better to focus on your job search. As much as possible, limit the amount of time/energy spent on trying to understand the situation. Most of the time, someone is laid off because of politics, money, or both.

Fourth, if there’s the possibility of consulting on a part-time basis while you’re looking for a full-time position, pursue it. Bear in mind that if you’re a consultant, it’s OK to say to the hiring manager that you may need to miss an occasional day for interviews. But if a firm needs someone to cover while an existing employee is on maternity leave, or caring for an ill family member, or it’s a busy time and they need extra help with a project, securing a temporary consultant can be a lifesaver, for them and you.

Fifth, understand that the internet is a tool and a resource. Rely on the internet to educate yourself on what’s going on in the industry, where there may be jobs, where someone might be working, or what openings are being advertised. Also, certainly if you’re interviewing at a firm, read all you can about it beforehand.

Sixth, meeting with people, or speaking with them, is essential. Applying for a position online is far less likely to have the desired effect. If you’re able to be introduced to a hiring manager through a contact (i.e. former colleague, family friend, college roommate), that’s ideal. Most firms give extra attention to a candidate introduced through an existing employee. Some even give existing employees a bonus if they refer a quality candidate who is ultimately hired.

In contrast, resumes submitted online often remain in the equivalent of a black hole. In a world where everyone is collecting data, it may be the case that a job is posted solely to generate resumes. A good recruiter, if you have a relationship with one, may make introductions too.

Seventh, understand that some people may be very helpful and others, not at all. And it’s often unexpected which category someone may fall into. Thus, a colleague with whom you thought you had a very cordial relationship might not lift a finger. In contrast, your neighbor’s sister might rise to the occasion and make multiple introductions. You just never know. Often, someone who has had the experience of being laid off is more helpful.

Eighth, keep a log. Note who you spoke with, what was discussed, when you’re to follow up with them. This will help you keep perspective as your search evolves. Moreover, it should help you know where your resume has gone and note who presented it and to whom. This is especially important when applying for a position through a recruiter.

If you share your resume with a recruiter, be certain to write in the email that you’re giving them permission to share your resume solely for the position you’ve discussed. It’s best to not have multiple people, whether they’re recruiters or not, releasing your resume to the same company. This is true even if you’ve not been laid off and you’re participating in the process. But a recruiter may get annoyed if they present you, and you neglected to mention that a company already has your resume through other channels. The reason for their frustration is a result of them feeling as though they’ve wasted their time. Additionally, it suggests to the recruiter that you, the candidate, aren’t being forthcoming about whether or not their resume has already been shared with a company. That could have a negative impact on that relationship.

So, maintaining a log will help considerably. Ideally, it should prevent you from having your resume presented through multiple channels to one firm. And, reviewing the log periodically should confirm that some progress is being made. It’s a bit like making a patchwork quilt. Eventually, all of the squares sewn together will result in a quilt. With a job search, eventually, you will be offered a position.

Ninth, expect the process to take far longer than you could possibly imagine. All the more reason to consider the fourth point, consult in the meantime. The process requires patience, and lots of it. A hiring manager may say that they want to hire you and then, permanent radio silence. Or you may complete several rounds of interviews and then the firm may say there’s a hiring freeze, or profits are down and they need to wait until the next quarter.

The best way to endure the endless wait, is to plant as many seeds as you can. Follow up. Recognize that people are busy but, still, remind them you’re in the market. Sometimes a person who says they are trying to help, hasn’t had the time to make a call, or their call hasn’t been returned. While it’s difficult to be understanding and patient when someone is supposedly helping, it’s essential.

Tenth, it’s usually feast or famine. Either no one will consider you or everyone wants to make an offer. Often, if a candidate mentions that they are being pursued by other firms, they become more attractive to the hiring manager they are speaking to. The theory: the girl with the boyfriend is the girl all the boys want to date.

Eleventh, pay attention to your health. If you have sleeping issues, start drinking in excess, overeating, under eating, being especially quarrelsome, you might benefit from talking to a therapist, outplacement or a coach. Few candidates can successfully navigate a job search if their outlook is lousy and they’re not taking care of themselves.

Twelfth, for numerous reasons, being laid off can impact one’s family, especially the job seeker’s partner. If the partner isn’t in the industry, they may struggle to understand why this happened or how challenging it can be to find a new role. Because the partner is anxious, they might be on edge. The only way to manage this is to discuss it, but not 24/7. If it’s discussed round the clock, perspective is lost and it’s too easy for candidates, and their partners, to feel thoroughly overwhelmed. This can have a negative impact on one’s search efforts.