Out of Work? Keep Your Career Moving

Take this time to be pro-active in developing your strategies and skills.

By Sonia R. Lelii

Dice News Staff | January 2009


Being laid off and facing the prospect of unemployment can be a
personal and professional strain. To cope, stay focused and keep your
day structured with tasks that are aimed toward getting a job and,
perhaps, pursue some activities you normally wouldn’t have time to do.

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Kevin
Jenkins, a recruiter with the California-based Tech-Source, Inc., says
being out of work can be an opportune time to work on self-development.
It’s not often you’ll have extended periods to do so, he notes. With a
positive mindset and some personal initiative, what you do now can be
just as valuable as any time you spend in an office.

Revisit Your Career Goals

It’s
a good time for some self-reflection. Many of us get caught up with
delivering what our managers want, which could lead you onto a career
path you never anticipated. While employed, it’s easy to get so caught
up in meeting your responsibilities that you lose track of your own
professional goals and agenda, says Jenkins. In this sense, a layoff
period actually can be a blessing in disguise. It’s an excellent time
to analyze where you are in your career and measure it against where
you ultimately would like to be. Use this opportunity to ensure your
next job is the first step in getting there.

Experiment with New Technology

Now
is your chance to play with new technologies and methodologies, says
Jenkins. You can download developer kits and documentation for just
about anything and start experimenting. The layoff period may not be
long enough for you to master a new skill, but you should be able to
get your feet wet and get a good sense for the direction in which you
would like to go. "When the market picks up, limit your search to
companies who use those technologies and who offer a nurturing
environment that will enable you to become proficient with them,"
Jenkins adds.

Look for Contract Work

In
a down economy, the name of the game is to stay employed so you are
marketable when there is a turnaround, says Matt Conley, branch manager
for Sapphire Technologies’ Boston office. Three-, six- or twelve-month
gaps can show a real lack of flexibility. People that have consistent
projects without gaps will be in a much better position to reap the
benefits of an economic turnaround than someone who has been stubborn
and sitting on the sidelines over their rates.

Develop Your Personal Brand

This
is a becoming a common mantra among managers: The idea that we’re our
own companies and therefore need to develop a personal brand.
Regardless of whether you work for yourself or another business,
Jenkins says, you ultimately are your own franchise. This is especially
true in today’s online culture of social networking. Use this time to
develop your personal brand and ensure it’s consistent across all your
online profiles.

Don’t Send Your Resume Out Blindly

It’s
easy to spam employers with your resume, but it may not yield the best
results. Even in good times, blindly sending it out is never a good
idea. If you know for a fact a company is hiring, develop a
relationship with an internal employee and get introduced through the
firm’s employee referral program. "Good jobs are secured through
referrals. Blind submissions rarely result in employment," explains
Jenkins.

Volunteer for a Cause

Professional
experience always looks better on a resume than academic experience. So
instead of signing up for school courses, try getting an internship or
volunteer your time for tasks that will enable you to develop your hot
skills. This can be particularly important for tech workers, since many
executives are starting to seek out better-rounded job candidates for
their IT operations.

Keep Up a Good Network of Contacts

Of
course, networking is critical. This is a good time to reconnect with
former co-coworkers and colleagues, and send out feelers on potential
job opportunities. Update your profiles on different social networking
sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a good way to let
people know you’re available for new projects.

Think About Transferable Functions and Skills

Think about the skills and talents you’ve tapped into during previous
jobs, advises Jan Gordon, a career coach based in Coral Springs, Fla.
Creatively brainstorm what jobs would easily incorporate these
transferable skills. For example, IT workers with good communication
skills can turn themselves into consultants for outsourced projects.

Sonia R. Lelii is a staff writer at Dice News. She can be reached at sonia.lelii@dice.com

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