Three weeks before my wedding, my position in the PR department of a non-profit arts organization was eliminated. The good news was it meant more time for me to help plan a wedding for more people than I’ll ever know. The bad news, of course, was my unemployment.
I have a hard time believing claims that losing a job is “the best thing to happen to me.” However, there are certainly more advantages to being unemployed than one might consider. Here are five:
- Re-Evaluate Your Resume
When I lost my job, I realized my resume hadn’t been updated since I was hired. I spent weeks afterward recalling all my accomplishments at work, and putting them down on paper coherently. I wrote and re-wrote, edited and re-edited. But that wasn’t enough.
The great thing about being unemployed is that you can freely pass your resume around for scrutiny. Sure, you can re-write a resume until the cows come home (farmers have resumes?) but why not share the wealth? Reach out to professionals in your industry or sector, and ask them to read your resume and offer suggestions. Talk to your colleagues and those in higher positions. And don’t be shy! After all, you won’t be hiring yourself.
As it stands now, I have had my resume go through most of my friends in PR. I’ve sent my resume to former managers and directors, looking for their feedback. My parents have helped me by sending my resume to their friends, soliciting their feedback as well. I consider every suggestion made, and my resume is richer for having done so.
- Interview, Informationally
Ah yes, the wily, elusive, and intimidating informational interview. In reality, none of those three adjectives should apply. Informationals are pretty easy to come by and usually quite relaxed and informal. While I wasn’t completely sold on the concept when I first began making the rounds, I quickly warmed to the idea.
Whenever an organization I contacted would come back to me saying no positions are available, I’d ask to meet with someone in their Communications department, regardless. It reflects a genuine interest and enthusiasm on my part, but it’s also a strategic way of learning about the inner-workings of a company. There’s only so much you can glean from websites and news releases.
The informational interview is also a no-pressure chance to ask questions you might not ask in a formal job interview: Curious about the salary expectations for someone with your experience? Ask away. Ever wondered what qualifications are truly needed for the positions you seek? Ask away. Want to know how the VP of Communications for SomeCompany Ltd got the position? Where they went to school? What they suggest you learn to get ahead? ASK!
- Network Network Network. And then Network some more.
This goes hand-in-hand with the first two points. When I send out a resume for someone to have a look at, I know they’ll offer some useful suggestions. I also know that it’s one more person who will have read my resume, seen my qualifications, and learned about my professional career to that point. That’s one more person who may be able to throw my name out somewhere.
The same idea applies to everyone I meet for informationals, even more so. Now there’s someone who is not only aware of who I am and what I’ve accomplished, but they have spent some time talking to me, getting to know me, and learning how I think and act. This is – in fact – even more useful as it’s safe to assume an informational interview takes place with someone within your desired industry. That’s another person who can throw your name out to potential employers, with the added bonus of being able to vouch for your character as well. Furthermore, should a position ever open in that person’s organization, a good impression will keep you at the top of their pile.
Besides that, I follow fellow PR folk on Twitter and LinkedIn, so I know who is doing what. Attending conferences and talks is a great way to meet people in your industry. Go for drinks with a friend and their coworkers. You never know who or what will lead where.
- Here, Take My Card.
Simple and cheap. Make yourself a business card. I found out very quickly after having lost my job that networking is difficult without a business card.
A business card is a classic reminder of who you are and what you do, and it fits in everyone’s front pocket. If you’re unemployed, all you need is your name and contact info, with a brief line about what you do. For example, on my card there is contact information broken up by a single line reading: Communications. Public Relations. Branding. Writing. Editing. Who I am, what I do, where to reach me.
- Freelance Is Not A Four-Letter Word
Stay sharp by offering your skills to others. This is not about the money, but about staying in the loop. Offer your services to a friend’s company, or a non-profit organization, or even your dad’s repair shop. Freelancing between jobs can be fun, keeps you on your toes and allows to dabble in a variety of areas.
While being unemployed is never fun, there are ways to use that time to your professional advantage. I’ve been doing my best to stay busy and stay relevant, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. While not working full-time at the moment, I have a few things on the go and am always looking at new opportunities. Meanwhile, I’ve met with everyone from coordinators and managers, to VPs and Presidents. I’ve had my resume edited by people whom I’d only ever seen on the news. Now they know my first name, where I went to school and what I’m capable of on the job.
Being unemployed hasn’t been the greatest thing to happen to me, but it’s certainly far from the worst. Best of luck to all!
As of this writing, for #HAPPOTO, I remain unemployed but open to all opportunities.