Tuesday, June 16, 2015

12 Ways to Make Your Layoff Pay Off

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog
12 Ways to Make Your Layoff Pay Off [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Don't become a couch potato
during your layoff.

A layoff is never fun, but many people say their layoff ended up being a good thing. Sometimes the layoff released them from a job they were ready to leave or no longer liked. Some people find better jobs in terms of pay, opportunity, or enjoyment. I have been laid off and took the perspective that it was good to have change in my life.

So how can you make a layoff pay off for your future? You should, of course, focus on your job search and career after a layoff. But you also can use your layoff to make other changes and improvements in your life. The key to using a layoff well is to make good use of your free time. Here are 12 ideas for employing your time wisely to make your layoff pay off, both professionally and personally.
  1. Take time to breathe. After working full time, you may feel as if you need a break before launching into your job search. So take a break, but make it short. You don’t want to get too comfortable or lazy. You don’t want your job skills to atrophy. Many people who stay out of the workforce too long find it more difficult to get hired. A job search may take longer than you think it will. When you do get back to work, make it a habit to relax every day and avoid burnout.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed. Be sure to tell everyone you know about your job status. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. Layoffs are common and nothing to be embarrassed about. Plus, from now on, you will be able to relate to others who have been laid off with greater understanding, support, and compassion.
  3. Develop good personal finance habits. Be careful not to increase your debt during a layoff. Budget any severance pay you may receive from your former employer. Apply for unemployment compensation with your state. Meet with your family and review your budget. Look for ways to save money and raise cash. Take on part-time or freelance work until you can find a new job. When you do get a new job, keep up your budgeting and saving habits.
  4. Think about what you really want to do. Now is the time to consider whether you want to stay in the same field and the same type of job. Consider what you are good at and enjoy, what skills you possess, and what type of organizations and workplaces might suit you best. Take free career assessments from the U.S. Department of Labor online at myskillsmyfuture.org and mynextmove.org. Research jobs, salaries, prospects, and much more at www.bls.gov/ooh and www.onetonline.org, two useful career research sites also from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  5. Conduct an active job search. Engage in an active job hunt, which means that you go beyond applying for job after job online. Learn about active job searching from this blog and other resources. Active job hunts include contacting employers directly and networking to learn about unadvertised openings. Make an active job search the focus of your layoff to get hired sooner rather than later. 
  6. Practice interview skills. Job interviews get you hired. So learn common interview questions and how to respond to them. Rehearse explaining your skills and how they will help employers prosper. Be sure to thank and follow up with potential employers.
  7. Develop new job skills. What skills will help you get and keep a new job? For example, do you need to brush up on computer skills or learn social media? Learn about the skills required for jobs that interest you at www.bls.gov/ooh. Then find ways to learn those skills through self-study, online workshops, and classes at your library or at a local adult education or community college program. Many classes may be free or low cost. Also inquire at your local Career One-Stop/American Job Center whether you are eligible for free training as a laid-off worker. See my previous post on 35 Ways to Learn and Hone a New Skill for ideas on skill development.
  8. Pursue accomplishments for your resume. What would make your resume more impressive? Perhaps you can add something new to your resume, such as starting a blog or volunteering at a nonprofit organization. These activities will also help you develop new skills and contacts and keep your resume current.
  9. Join professional groups and organizations. Your career field may have professional groups that will help you meet new people, network for opportunities, stay current, and offer opportunities for professional development. Also look for relevant LinkedIn groups to learn and share information. Be sure to add professional groups to your resume if they are applicable to the jobs you are seeking. Keep up connections you make throughout your career.
  10. Reconnect with family and friends. In our busy lives, it’s easy to put people on the back burner. Make an effort to reach out to and reconnect with your family and friends. You may learn of new job opportunities and get emotional support during this period of change and transition. From now on, avoid losing touch with those most important to you.
  11. Get involved in projects you've put off. Everyone has unfinished projects or new ones to take on. Although your job search should be your main focus, you will still have lots of free time. Use it to finally finish those old projects or start projects you’ve always wanted to do. You will gain a sense of accomplishment. Most important of all, please don’t become a couch potato!
  12. Get healthy and active. It’s easier to get healthier if you have time to exercise and make good meals. So plan to use your layoff to enhance your health and develop healthy habits.
If you keep these suggestions in mind, your layoff will pay off with a brighter future and better life. What suggestions do you have to make the most of a layoff?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Planting Seeds for Your Career Growth and Satisfaction

Over the past month, I’ve planned my garden and planted tomatoes and seeds for various vegetables. It’s an annual ritual that has varying success. Some years, for example, the tomatoes are bountiful and luscious. Other years, the tomatoes are fewer and smaller. It’s often hard to know exactly what makes the crop better or worse from year to year. When it’s a bad crop, I ask myself lots of questions. Did I do something wrong, such as planting seeds too shallow or too late? Or was the weak yield beyond my control, such as from too much rain, too much heat, or too many bugs?

Plant Seeds for Career Growth and Satisfaction [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Plant the seeds and
watch your career grow!
Planning and planting a garden got me thinking how careers are like gardens. Most people don’t tend dutifully to their careers, and their career “garden” can end up growing successfully anyway. Or a career may turn into a weedy hodgepodge that never truly satisfies. You can plan your career like you plan a garden, yet your career may not bear the fruit you’d hoped. It may go in a different direction and give results you didn’t anticipate--sometimes great, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes mixed.

Several years ago, I attended a National Career Development Association (NCDA) conference, and the speaker asked the attendees how many had decided to become career counselors when they were 18 years old? Just a few people raised their hands. And these people were career counselors and career coaches!

The speaker was Dr. John Krumboltz, Professor of Education and Psychology at Stanford University. His Happenstance Learning Theory states that the goal of career counseling is to help clients take action—and not to make a single career decision. Krumboltz said that by taking action, clients will generate events and not merely talk about their fears or shortcomings. Krumboltz, in fact, does not believe careers should be planned in advance. Interestingly, Dr. Krumboltz was once employed as a gardener. 

Yet it seems to me that career “gardening” can be helpful, even if its results are unpredictable. With some direction, you avoid jumping at the first opportunity that comes your way, which is often not a good opportunity. Without any career forethought, you may end up dissatisfied, disappointed, and regretful. I know people in just such situations, and they find it difficult to change or determine their career course after 20 or 30 years of doing the same thing or doing many brain-deadening or unsatisfying things. This predicament is sad to me, because these people seem capable of so much more in their work life. Of course career change is always a possibility, and my tips here can help you at any stage of your work life if you decide to plot a new career garden.

If you find it challenging to take the long view to plan your career, consider figuring out the next step. Ask yourself questions like these to get started:
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What jobs interest me and why?
  • What don’t I want to do?
  • What’s important to me in a job?
  • What do I want to avoid in a job?
  • What work environments do I like and not like?
  • What type of education and training do my jobs of interest require?
  • What skills do I possess already for these jobs?
  • Which employers hire people for these jobs?
  • What is the demand and outlook for these jobs?
  • What would I like to accomplish in my career?
  • Do I know anyone doing this type of work?
  • What professional associations, trade publications, and web sites will help me understand this field and this job?
Now that’s a lot of questions, and you may not be able to answer them all right off. But take your time, write it down, stay positive, and see what you conclude. At the very least you may have a better sense of your career direction and growth than you did previously. Your responses may put you on a path to taking good career action for your future.

If you need help and guidance, and most people do, I recommend these web sites from the U.S. Department of Labor for free career assessment and research:
Also see these earlier Shy Job Seeker posts for career planning and guidance:

So plan and plant your career garden, tend to it well, and you will most likely end up with better results in the future, even if they aren’t what you planned.