Let’s face it, one of the big risks of being a young person or recent in this economy is the risk of job loss or the inability to get a job. As of May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for persons with “some college or an associate degree” at 8.0% (and it’s bleaker for the less educated.) So the question is: what to do when you lose your income? Especially in an ugly job market, where it could take over a year to land a new job?
Here are the steps I take, in the order I take them:
- Unemployment: If you’re eligible, immediately apply for it. Unemployment benefits can take two weeks (or longer) to be paid out. You think you’ll have a job in a few weeks? I hope so, but the safest course of action is to assume all unemployment will be indefinite long-term unemployment.
- Make a budget immediately, if you don’t already have one. You must be able to know and control the amount of money you have going out of your household, and you need to be able to prioritize your spending. The most important expenses to keep are cell phone service (talk only – so you can do phone interviews or get work scheduled), and your car (you need to get to and from work – remember, you can sleep in a car but you can’t drive an apartment). The least important are luxuries like dining out in restaurants and making credit card payments.*
- Get a survival job as soon as you can. A survival job is something that will get some income, any income, as soon as possible. The point of a survival job is to buy time. Try to land a job that will leave you available during some part of the white-collar work day. You need to be reachable for interviews and to take phone calls from prospective employers. Additionally, don’t be fussy about your survival job. It’s not a career, so don’t hesitate to lunge at the first one that you can do that hits your radar.
- Start your second job – finding another job. I’ve believe the speed at which one finds a job is related to the number of applications one makes to positions for which one is qualified. It follows that, unless you have a particular reason to apply to a large business, don’t. Most positions available at a large organization have a computerized application system, which will probably take you anywhere from a half hour to two hours to complete. Compare this to most small businesses (or the upper levels of a large organization), where an application consists of your resume and a customized cover letter. The customization of a cover letter takes, say fifteen minutes. You can see how you can apply to twenty or more positions at small organizations in a day, but only apply to, say, six positions at large organizations. Additionally, small organizations usually have a person you can call to follow-up. Large organizations generally do not have a person you can follow-up with.
I know this sounds terrible, but that’s because searching for a job is a terrible experience. You’ll find yourself working harder than you’ve ever worked, and for the least money you’ve ever made. You’ll find yourself competing against people who are smarter, more experienced and better educated than you are. The best way for a young person to compete in the white-collar job market is to churn out more applications and make more action in your job search than anyone else.
You know what? I think I’ll make another post on how to organize and create a high-volume job application process, which was my technique for getting my current, wonderful job. Let’s call it: Tips for a High-Octane Job Search (coming soon!)
* I’m not encouraging you to default on credit card payments here. I’m just saying, if you can’t pay them, you can’t pay them. And if you’re ever in a place where your income is so low you can’t survive, well, credit cards bills aren’t that important.