The daily news is filled with reports of company mergers, corporate downsizing and layoffs. Unemployment rates fluctuate constantly. Yet even in relatively stable times, when employment seems to be on an upswing, many suffer nagging fears of someday becoming jobless because of budget cutbacks or overseas outsourcing. Still others worry about being made redundant and forced to change careers.
Are you unemployed? If not, how secure is your job? Is there a chance you will—either voluntarily or involuntarily—change jobs in the near future?
Seven Steps to Finding a Job
Being out of work can be an extremely painful experience, both emotionally and economically.
When a person is first let go from a job, more often than not he or she becomes somewhat dazed and bewildered. It’s hard to cope with not having a job to report to each day—much less an income. But once the initial shock is gone, it’s easy to slip into a state of numbness and apathy.
Many jobless people dread waiting in long lines at employment offices and having to fill out stacks of applications. Still others become hopelessly discouraged about ever finding work again, especially if they are past a certain age. Some few even turn to drugs or alcohol to find solace.
If you find yourself jobless—or if you’re likely to lose your job in the future—you’ll want to take certain steps to become gainfully employed again as soon as possible. You’ll also want to ensure you don’t become depressed or hopeless about your situation.
What follows are seven steps you can take to help travel the road back to productivity and employment.
1. Assess your spending
If you’ve just lost your job, or if you see the end of your present job in sight (and by the way, in today’s tough labor market, don’t ever quit your job unless you already have another one lined up), you should stop and take stock of your financial situation immediately.
Depending on how much money (if any) you have in savings, you may have to sharply curtail your monthly expenses. Start right away on working out a new budget that is realistic. Get help from a public credit counseling service if you can’t work out a budget on your own.
Take a long, hard look at your spending habits. Don’t hesitate to drastically reduce your standard of living. You may need to get rid of some, or all, of your non-essential bills in order to survive. For example, you may need to cancel such things as your cable tv, gym membership and magazine subscriptions. You may also need to curb your discretionary spending (e.g. dining out, entertainment, etc.).
In some cases, it may be advisable to quickly pay down—or pay off—as many of your short-term debts as you can. You might also consider refinancing your home mortgage or auto loan to a lower interest rate in order to further reduce your monthly debt payments.
Also, when jobless, you should resist the temptation to use credit and dig yourself into a hole that you might not get out of for a long time (see “When the Debt Bomb Explodes”).
When it is time for you to go job-hunting, first figure out how much income you will need to earn in order to make ends meet. In his classic career guide, What Color Is Your Parachute?, author Richard N. Bolles lists the following expenses to consider when determining your “minimal survival salary”: housing; cleaning, maintenance, repairs; food; clothing; automobile/transportation; insurance; medical expenses; support for other family members; charity giving/tithes; school/learning; pet care; bills and debts; taxes; savings; retirement fund; amusement/discretionary spending.
2. Prepare for the long haul
Getting yourself back into the working sector requires a lot of confidence and enthusiasm. But don’t have unrealistic expectations of landing another job immediately, or your hopes may soon fade away. It could take some time. In fact, it might take six months to two years or more to find a job. “As of July 2001, the average number of weeks an unemployed person in the U.S. had been unemployed was 13 weeks, though at least 1,540,000 had been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer” (ibid.).
Because you might be without a regular paycheck for a number of months, it is vital to immediately assess your financial situation (step 1) and be prepared to curtail your spending. This is why it is also important to work diligently at reducing your debt load and getting into a good cash position when you are employed.
As we stated in the March-April 2000 issue of this magazine, it is wise to “have a minimum of debt and the maximum cash possible—six-months’ income in savings, if possible, because there is nothing like cash to help you weather a crisis” (“The Snare of Debt”).
3. Assess your skills
In order to find the right job or career for you, you may need to put yourself through a course of self-analysis to find where you really belong. In other words, you need to examine and evaluate yourself before you can know what position would fit you best.
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course states, “If you are uncertain in your own analysis, check into the vocational guidance tests available from many colleges, universities and private agencies. But on your own, think slowly and carefully over your entire life and write down a list of activities in which you have excelled in school, in handicraft activities, in hobbies and all other extra-curricular activities. Be sure to note any specialized vocational training you may have received in school, in the armed forces, or in any other way.
“Also make a list of the various jobs you have actually held, and note the ones in which you have excelled or were particularly interested. Make a similar list of your main interests in life—what you like to do best in both work and in recreation. Remember that you usually enjoy the most the activities in which you excel.
“As you make and study these various lists, you will probably begin to see a pattern. You will begin to see the type of job in which you can employ your talents and in which you can excel, and also the type of job in which you would simply be a miserable, unhappy ‘square peg in a round hole’” (Lesson 55).
Concerning self-assessment, Bolles says, “This involves sitting down and doing some inventory on what are called your functional or transferable skills. Your education and previous experience don’t lock you into only finding a job in a particular sector of the economy or in a particular job title.
“You have to take the blinders off and think, ‘I’m a person who’ and fill in the blank. Not, ‘I’m a human resources executive,’ for instance. Rather, think ‘I’m a person who’s good at analyzing things’ or ‘I’m a person who’s good at organizing things.’ Then you look for an organization that needs these skills and interests” (www.BusinessWeek.com, op. cit.).
In other words, perhaps your skills can be adapted to some job other than what you have previously done.
In addition to looking upon your jobless situation as time for self-analysis, you can view it as a time for education in new skills. There are many training courses and seminars offered by vendors, local schools and government-sponsored institutions. Or, if you’re Internet savvy, consider taking an online course or “webinar” to brush up on your skills.
You could also make good use of your time by reading up on the jobs or fields that are on the rise. Your public library and a local bookstore are good sources to check. Here are a few recently published titles you might find worth reading: Guide for Occupational Exploration (U.S. Department of Labor); The Pathfinder (Simon and Schuster); The UnCollege Alternative (HarperCollins Publishers); What Color Is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed Press).
But here’s a word of caution if you’re considering going back to school to get a degree in this or that “hot” field. Beware: A college degree will not guarantee you a job! While in some cases a college degree can help you find work, according to Danielle Wood’s book The UnCollege Alternative, the majority—about 70 percent—of all jobs in the United States only require alternative education and on-the-job training.
4. Make a job out of finding a job
We cannot emphasize this fourth step enough. Unhappily, too many tend to go about job-hunting halfheartedly. It’s no wonder so many can’t seem to find work or are living on public welfare today!
If you find yourself out of a job, determine to stay in your regular routine of leaving the house in the morning. Resist the temptation to sit around surfing the Internet aimlessly or watching tv for hours.
Being jobless is not a temporary extended holiday. If you want to be successful at finding a new job, you shouldn’t view your seemingly endless “free” time as time you can fritter away on hobbies or backyard projects.
Force yourself to get up and get going each day! Resolve to go about finding a job with zeal. Work at it 40 hours a week. Be resourceful and persistent.
“Don’t be a lazy job hunter. Get up early in the morning—consistently—and start out either arranging interviews, or pounding the pavement early every morning, and don’t quit until you’ve put in a full day’s work looking for work! Either plan to eat in a restaurant on the way, or take a sack lunch along with you, so you can keep at it throughout the entire eight or nine-hour ‘work day.’
“Don’t waste time! Don’t sit and brood at home and feel sorry for yourself! Get out and hustle!” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, op. cit.).
“Job researchers insist the job-hunter should be able to make nearly one application an hour, 40 a week for nonexecutive jobs. … Set a goal of a certain number of applications a day until you land your job” (Plain Truth, September/October 1982).
According to Bolles’s best-selling job-hunting manual, “The key to job-hunting success is hope, and perseverance. Many people who are out of work fail to find work simply because they give up too soon” (op. cit.).
Besides doing a traditional job search—by looking for employment opportunities listed in classified ads, trade journals, professional publications, or at employment agencies and the like—try networking.
Get out and talk with friends, neighbors, relatives and business acquaintances who may be able to help you get a job. Word-of-mouth referrals are often much more effective at gaining job interviews than merely answering want ads. In fact, some employment experts say that the majority of jobs available on any given date aren’t publicized. Bolles says that “80 percent of all vacancies that are filled are never advertised. They use their own grapevines within the company. … [N]etworking is the single most important way of going job hunting” (www.BusinessWeek.com, op. cit.).
With this in mind, you may also want to use the Yellow Pages to look up potential employers. Call them and ask if they are hiring for the kind of position you are interested in applying for. According to Bolles, this method has a 69 percent success rate (What Color Is Your Parachute?).
The Plain Truth advocated this same job-hunting technique: “Call up and ask to speak with the directors of the various company divisions, the lab directors or the shop foreman. If you have good qualifications, the lab director may hire you even if there is no opening at the moment. He must look ahead to future needs” (op. cit.).
Another method in trying to find a job is to post your resume on major Internet websites where employers go to look for potential employees. A few of the more well-known job sites that allow you to do this include hotjobs.yahoo.com, www.monster.com and www.spherion.com.
But think twice about relying on the Internet alone to search for a job as this approach has a low success rate. “The Internet has obviously increased the ability of people to locate jobs. But sending your resume out unsolicited and using the Internet doesn’t really work even during a good economy. These strategies are miserable failures when you have a sour economy. Forrester Research has found that 10 percent at best and 4 percent at worst find a job through the Internet” (www.BusinessWeek.com, op. cit.).
5. Knock on some doors
One of the best ways to try to find a job, says Bolles, is to “[knock] on the door of any employer, factory or office that interests you, whether they are known to have a vacancy or not” (What Color Is Your Parachute?). This may seem like an outmoded tactic; however, Bolles states this method has a 47 percent success rate.
Before you go knocking on doors, develop a plan. Avoid trudging up and down the streets at random, in hopes that some company out there will have a position available. “Don’t go out blindly hunting a job from door to door. You will save yourself many fruitless, heart-breaking hours if you first take the effort to find out the exact name and location of business concerns who hire people who have your abilities and skills” (Plain Truth, op. cit.).
After targeting a business or employer you are interested in working for, try to get in to see the hiring manager. If you can, avoid going through the Personnel Office—because their job is usually to screen out job-seekers. Strive to make a good first impression. Dress appropriately, be clean, and present yourself with poise and enthusiasm. Put your best foot forward. And, with each manager you meet, leave a neatly prepared resume and cover letter briefly detailing your education, work experience and personal information.
In big cities, and especially within big corporations, it may be difficult to get past security to talk to someone “in charge” without an appointment. Even so, Bolles says, “It’s uncanny how many people will say ‘Sure’ or ‘I’ll see if there’s someone who you can talk to .…’ It’s perfectly true that these monoliths that have 38 floors don’t pay off so well. But smaller companies are filled with people who are very interested in taking the time to talk to you” (www.BusinessWeek.com, op. cit.).
Bolles stated that, particularly in “a jobless recovery, normally it’s the small organizations with 50 or less employees … that you should concentrate on. When you approach companies like that—and when you know enough about interviewing—you often come as the answer to their prayers.”
6. Be flexible
Did you know the average person changes jobs at least eight times in a lifetime? Sometimes job changes involve career changes. Accept the possibility that you may need to switch careers.
This involves thinking outside the box: You may have to consider changing from a white collar job to a blue collar job—or vice versa. You may need to adjust to a lower pay scale. You may have to take a temporary or part-time job—or maybe two part-time jobs—in order to get by. In some cases, you might be required to commute long-distance or even relocate.
In any case, be adaptable. Don’t become overly anxious about the transitions you may have to go through along the way to becoming gainfully employed again. Excessive worry can be harmful to your health; besides, it is nonproductive and can even be counterproductive.
Be open-minded about seeking a new job or career. Ideally, though, you should try to find a job where you can use many of your abilities and talents.
7. Seek guidance
If you are unemployed or are thinking of changing jobs, be sure to seek advice and counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 20:18).
Talk to a career counselor. Visits to job sites and personal interviews with experienced people in a variety of careers are excellent ways to obtain information about the fields you may contemplate entering. Especially ask for help from close friends and relatives—those who know you best—since they may be able to see your strengths and weaknesses more objectively than you can and thus aid you in considering a career path or job that is right for you.
Above all, don’t forget to seek counsel from above—heavenly guidance from God. Many turn to God only out of desperation as a last resort. But the power of prayer can work, and has worked miracles in the lives of many who have experienced unemployment woes in the past.
God knows your needs even before you ask. However, He won’t necessarily supply what you don’t ask for (Matthew 6:8; James 4:2). Be sure to seek His help diligently. Be persistent and wholehearted. James 5:16 states that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” If you expect God to hear, you must pray fervently, earnestly, zealously and without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Pray, and then wait, with patient faith—and doing your part all the while—to see the amazing results! God will never fail you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), so long as you put Him first in everything. Know that He can, most definitely, guide you to success in finding the job you need!
Adapted from “Help Wanted! Make a Job Out of Getting a Job,” Plain Truth, September 1983.