6 Principles For Surviving Unemployment
By Cal Brown, CFP, MST, Author of When Life Strikes:
Weathering Financial Storms
You've been handed the dreaded pink slip. In other words, you've been laid
off, fired, terminated, let go, canned, or "RIF'd" (Reduction in Force) --
whatever you call it, it's some of the worst information you'll ever
receive. I'm sure that the pain associated with such news explains why
bosses and owners have creatively crafted so many ways to basically say,
"I'm sorry, your services aren't needed here anymore." So what do you do
Unfortunately there's no easy, one-size-fits-all salve that you can apply
to your unemployed state. There are, however, basic principles that will
speed up your job search and improve your prospects of getting hired. These
six principles will help guide you through this financially and emotionally
Principle 1: Avoid Résumé Red Flags
Through my experience of being a business owner, I've hired and fired
many people. Between my executive assistant and me, we've seen countless job
applications. Whenever we're hiring, my assistant is the first person to
review all résumés. She keeps the ones that she deems worth my review and
tosses out the rest. Even after this initial screening process, though, many
résumés still leave much to be desired. Here are reasons why:
Poorly written. Make sure your punctuation and grammar is correct. Have
knowledgeable people you trust proofread your writing before submitting your
Experience listed has no relevance to the job offered. Be sure to
understand the responsibilities and requirements that are explained in the
job description and align your experiences accordingly.
There are large gaps in employment history. Considering these difficult
times, many people have extended periods of unemployment on their records.
Explain reasons for the gaps including activities you engaged in that are
related to the field of work you are interested in.
The applicant is a job-hopper. In other words, he or she has changed
employers every year or two. On occasion, we find reasonable and acceptable
explanations for too many jobs in too few years. Don't forget to include
them on your résumé if you've had short work terms.
Principle 2: Finding a Job Is Your New Full-Time Job
Throughout your employment, you showed up at the office, Monday through
Friday, for at least eight hours a day -- maybe you even worked weekends.
Now that you've been laid off, you must commit the same amount of time
looking for a job as you did to performing your previous job. You may wonder
how you'll ever fill forty hours a week. I'll start with what you shouldn't
- Watch TV.
- Browse the Internet for fun.
- Play on your gaming console.
- Socialize with friends either online or in person --
this is fake networking, so don't fool yourself.
- Take care of chores such as cleaning the house,
shopping, and cooking.
This is not to say that you cut these activities out of your life
entirely. When you were gainfully employed, you participated in these
activities after your workday; you should apply the same stringent standards
to your current job search.
Principle 3: Be Visible; Don't Isolate Yourself
The first thing you may want to do after being laid off is to crawl under
the covers and wallow. Unemployment can certainly lead to depression, which
makes the job search even harder. It's a vicious cycle that can last months
and lead to financial ruin. For these reasons, unemployment is the worst
possible time to become a recluse. Instead, get out there and engage with
your network, even if it's the very last thing you want to do. As a result,
you'll be energized, and you will experience positive results. Try the
following to stay active.
Start by picking up the phone and contacting your colleagues and business
Join trade groups. If you presently belong to one, be sure to maintain
your membership and continue to attend meetings.
Keep in mind that your network also includes friends, family members,
former coworkers, and past professors.
Ask people around you about organizations that can provide you support
and guidance then join them and contribute your time and energy.
Take advantage of social networking as well. Not updates that describe
what you ate for lunch, but use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to reach out
to people who can support you in your search.
Principle 4: It's a Numbers Game
In the world of sales training, you'll often hear the phrase, "What gets
measured gets done." Top sales professionals keep track of how many phone
calls they've made, how many appointments they've scheduled, the number of
face-to-face (or Skype-to-Skype) meetings they've had, and how many deals
they've closed. Highly motivated salespeople can at any given time tell you
their average commission per sale. The bottom line is, by measuring their
workflow they know how many "No"s it takes to get a "Yes."
In addition, all salespeople are taught that if you don't ask, the answer
is "No." On the other hand, if you do ask, the worst result possible is
still "No." By taking a bold step forward -- asking for help, a referral, or
a position within a company -- you've got nothing to lose and everything to
gain. Can it be embarrassing or even humiliating? Perhaps. That leads us to
the next principle.
Principle 5: Seek Models of Persistence
If you don't persist during your job hunt, the result will be persistent
unemployment. Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States,
eloquently extolled the importance of persistence. He said:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not;
nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not;
the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone
I'm sharing this quote not only to inspire you, but also to encourage you
to surround yourself with positive people and resources.
Try reading the biographies of successful businesspeople such as Sam
Walton who started Walmart and Ray Kroc, the man behind the success of
McDonald's. Studying the lives of great entrepreneurs will motivate you, and
their stories will also provide you with effective business-building ideas.
You'll see that they faced tremendous obstacles and often experienced
heartbreaking failure before accomplishing their goals.
Principle 6: Be a Lifelong Learner
There are innumerable resources related to finding a job. The good news
is that lots of them are free. Examples include podcasts, video casts, chat
forums, Twitter feeds, white papers, and articles. Whether it's a book or a
blog, take advantage of what's out there. Remember, however, the line
between entertainment and education can sometimes become hazy, so make sure
that your career research isn't really recreation.
Don't stop reading once you land a job either. Remember that in this
highly competitive Information Age, there's always going to be someone who
is vying for your position. Therefore, researching voraciously throughout
your working years is an essential part of staying on top of your
profession, maintaining a competitive edge, and being able to quickly adapt
Looking for a job is never easy. In fact, it can be horribly
discouraging. I've had friends who had been out of work for more than a year
and their unemployment had nothing to do with laziness or incompetence.
Despite setback after setback, they kept at their search. They continued
sending out résumés and e-mails and they enlisted the help of friends. They
were always precise in their pursuit, asking others if they knew someone at
a particular company or in a specific industry or field. Their hard work
often resulted in jobs that were even better than their previous positions.
© 2011 Cal Brown,CFP, MST, author of When Life Strikes:
Weathering Financial Storms
Author Bio Cal Brown, CFP, MST, author of When Life
Strikes: Weathering Financial Storms, has over twenty-five years of
experience in the financial services field. He received his master of
science in taxation (MST) from American University in Washington, DC, and
his undergraduate BSBA degree from the University of Arkansas. Cal is
currently an adjunct professor in the MST program at American University,
teaching estate planning.
Washingtonian magazine and Northern Virginia magazine
named Cal one of the top financial planners in the greater Washington, DC,
metro area and he has authored articles in Bloomberg Wealth Manager, Journal
of Financial Planning, and Financial Planning magazines. He has also been
quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report,
Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Smart Money, and other periodicals. He has
appeared on CNBC, Fox 5 DC, the PBS Nightly Business Report, and was a
regular guest on WAVA-Fm (Washington, DC).
As a speaker, he has addressed national audiences as
well as local and regional professional and civic groups. Cal served as
chairman of the National Capital Area chapter of the Financial Planning
Association and continues to actively serve on boards and councils within
Cal is vice president of planning for The Monitor Group
in Virginia, a wealth management firm working with over 250 clients and
managing approximately $500 million in assets.
Cal also plays guitar in a classic rock cover band in