There is a type of man who never goes without work for long.
“Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village—in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: He is needed, and needed badly .…”
At the turn of the last century, Elbert Hubbard described this man in “A Message to Garcia,” an essay that was printed and reprinted around the world and even given to every enlisted man in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during both world wars.
This man is resourceful. He is industrious. He has initiative. He listens to what his boss tells him to do and then does it.
But in today’s abnormal global economic climate, even a man of this quality may still find himself without work, laid off with thousands of others. What can he do then?
If you find yourself in this situation, you need a strategy. Here are seven practical steps to take if you’re looking for work.
1. Assess your spending
If you’ve just lost your job, or the end of your present job is in sight (and by the way, today’s labor market is tough, so don’t ever quit unless you have another job lined up), then stop and take stock of your financial situation immediately.
Depending on how much money (if any) you have in savings, you may have to curtail or sharply cut your monthly expenses. 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 and discretionary spending in order to survive. For example, you may need to cancel such things as your cable tv, gym membership and magazine subscriptions, and curtail dining out and entertainment.
In some cases, it may be advisable to quickly pay down—or pay off—as many short-term debts as you can. You might consider refinancing your home mortgage or auto loan to a lower interest rate in order to further reduce monthly debt payments.
At the same time, you will need to work out a new, realistic budget. Get help from a public credit counseling service if you can’t work out a budget on your own.
Resist the temptation to use credit and dig yourself into a hole that you might not get out of for a long time.
When it is time for you to go job hunting, first calculate how much income you will need to earn in order to make ends meet. The classic career guide What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles lists these 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 pin your hopes on unrealistic expectations of landing another job easily and immediately, or your hopes may soon fade. It could take time—perhaps a year or so—to find the right job, so you also have to have steely determination.
This is why it is important to diligently reduce your debt load and get into a good cash position when you are employed. If you currently have a job, set aside funds for unexpected expenses. Each pay period, you should budget about 5 percent of your net earnings until you have accumulated enough emergency savings to pay your essential expenses for six months. Then, when an emergency occurs—like the loss of a job—that reduces your reserve, build it back up with the same diligence as before.
3. Assess your skills
Analyze your main interests in life in order to find the job that is right for you—not just one that pays a high salary. You usually enjoy the activities at which you excel. Think slowly and carefully over your entire life and write down a list of areas in which you excel, including school activities, handicrafts, hobbies, and all of your past jobs. Do you enjoy working on cars? Are you a fast painter? Do you like tinkering with computers? Fascinated by nature and biology?
Also note any specialized vocational training you received in school, the armed forces, or elsewhere. For an even deeper look at your aptitudes, consider taking a vocational guidance test from a college, university, employment agency or other institute.
Such lists will probably reveal a pattern. You will begin to see the type of job that would make use of your talents and in which you can excel, and also the type of job in which you would be a miserable misfit.
Bolles says self-assessment “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” (ibid). Perhaps your skills can be adapted to a job other than what you have previously done.
Your jobless situation can be a time not only for self-analysis, but also for education in new skills. There are many training courses and seminars offered by vendors, local schools and government-sponsored institutions. If you are Internet savvy, consider taking an online course or “webinar” to enhance your skills or learn new ones.
Go to your local library or bookstore and read up on the career fields that are on the rise. In addition to What Color Is Your Parachute?, you might find one of these titles very helpful: Guide for Occupational Exploration, The Pathfinder, and The UnCollege Alternative.
If you’re considering going back to school to get a degree in some “hot” field, be aware that a college degree does not guarantee you a job. While in some cases a 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
Too many go on the job hunt halfheartedly. It’s no wonder so many can’t find work and/or are living on public welfare.
Being jobless is not an extended holiday. If you don’t have a job, now is the time to work “overtime” every workday looking for a job. Stay in a regular work routine every day. Resist the temptation to aimlessly surf the Internet or watch tv. Don’t view your seemingly endless “free” time as something to fritter away on hobbies and backyard projects. Force yourself to get up and get going each day.
Be zealous in your quest for a job. Get up early in the morning—every morning—and start researching for openings, applying for jobs, arranging interviews and pounding the pavement—before lunchtime! Don’t quit until you’ve put in a full eight- or nine- or ten-hour day’s work looking for work. Keep at it for at least 40 hours a week. Be resourceful and persistent. Job researchers insist a job hunter who is looking for a nonexecutive job should be able to submit 40 applications a week. Set a goal of a certain number of applications a day until you land your job.
Besides your traditional job search—sifting through job websites like CareerBuilder and Monster, looking in classified ads, reading trade journals and professional publications, and checking out employment agencies—try networking. Get out and talk with your friends, neighbors, relatives and business acquaintances. 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” (Business Week, March 22, 2004).
With this in mind, you may also want to use the Yellow Pages (www.YP.com) 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.
If possible, ask to speak with the director, the department manager, the foreman or whoever has decision-making authority. If you have good qualifications, the director may hire you even if there is no opening at the moment, because he is looking ahead to future needs.
Too many job hunters rely on the Internet alone. This approach has a low success rate. “The Internet has obviously increased the ability of people to locate jobs. But sending your résumé 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” (ibid).
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” (op. cit.). This tactic may seem outmoded; 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. First take the effort to find out the exact name and location of businesses that hire people who have your abilities and skills.
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 its 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 résumé and cover letter briefly detailing your education, work experience and personal information (see our February issue).
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” (op. cit.). Concentrate on organizations with 50 or less employees, he says. “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
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 big: 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 of them—in order to get by. You might be required to commute long-distance or even relocate.
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.
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 hurt your health; it is nonproductive and can even be counterproductive.
7. Seek guidance
If you are unemployed or are thinking of changing jobs, be sure to seek advice and counsel. As Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Talk to a career counselor. Visit job sites and ask for personal interviews with experienced people in a variety of careers. 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 aid you in considering a career path or job 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. Use this vital tool throughout the job-seeking—and job-keeping—process!
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—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.
Many nations are heading into the worst economic times since the Great Depression. The struggle to find—and keep—a good job will only intensify. But if you do your part and follow God’s laws, God will bless you and provide for all your needs. As Jesus said, “[S]eek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these [material] things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Pray for favor. Stay positive. Realize that if Almighty God is with you, you will eventually succeed. Have faith: “Unemployment may reach 50 percent or more, but there is no reason that you cannot be one of the 50 percent with a job” (Solve Your Money Troubles!; request your free copy). In today’s global economic climate, finding a job can be tricky, but with God’s help it is possible.
Sidebar: More Americans out of work than reported
The state of the U.S. economy is shaping up to be a major issue in the 2012 presidential election. No presidential incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt has been reelected in a year when the national unemployment exceeded 7.2 percent. Perhaps this is why the current administration is trying so hard to downplay America’s joblessness. Most news media outlets made a big deal over the fact that the U.S. Labor Department announced that the U-3 unemployment rate fell from 9 percent to 8.6 percent during the month of November. Trouble is, the government-reported U-3 unemployment rate does not reflect how many people are actually out of work, but rather how many unemployed people are actively applying for government benefits. Further examination of the data shows that 315,000 people stopped looking for work during November, dropping out of the job market. The situation looks even worse when you consider the government-reported U-6 under-employment rate, which includes those who are currently working part-time until they can find a full-time job. The overall under-employment rate in America is currently at 15.6 percent. ▪