This year, many friends and even more acquaintances suddenly found themselves out of work. My employer laid off a lot of people in the past nine months (they called it "Reduction in Force" or "RIF"). I survived these layoffs, but I have been unemployed and know how stressful it can be - especially if you are supporting a family.
Here is some advice for those of you seeking work and those of you still employed.
A Guide For the Unemployed
Take stock of your current skills
Make a list of the things at which you excel. What have you done to demonstrate this excellence? Write down the successful projects you worked on and how you contributed to that success.
Decide what you want to do
It is sometimes difficult to see a bright spot when you just lost your job, but this is an excellent opportunity to find the job you really want. You are more likely to find that job if you know what it is. Think about your dream job. Articulate what you will do and write that down. You may have multiple dream jobs, and that is okay, but you will be more successful if you are more focused.
Update your resume and cover letter
Take a look at your resume. Of course, you will add your most recent job. But you should also look back at your descriptions of previous jobs. Can you improve the wording? Can you remove irrelevant content? If you have no desire to be a COBOL programmer, it may be time to strike that line from your resume. If you have a lot of professional experience, it may be time to remove the part-time McDonald's job you had in college.
This is also an excellent time to update your cover letter to potential employers. State your goals and why you are a good hire.
Ask someone to review these for you.
It is okay to have multiple versions of both your resume and your cover letter.
Do not be afraid to let others know you are looking. They have contacts who do not know you, and they can help you expand your search. Many people want to help but cannot unless they know you need help. Ask. Be specific about the kind of help you are seeking. See the section below for some ideas.
A Guide for the Survivors
If, like me, you are not directly affected by the layoffs, you may be able to help. This is true even if you are not a hiring manager and do not know anyone who is hiring.
Here are some ways you can help.
Write a LinkedIn recommendation
If you have worked with someone before, take the time to write about your experience. Be specific about the work you performed together, their contributions, and their strengths. LinkedIn is a great place to post this because it is public, and many potential employees read these. Note that this is only appropriate if you have direct knowledge of a person. Your endorsement affects your reputation.s
Do NOT simply click the Endorsement buttons on LinkedIn. Those are useless.
Amplify job searches
Many of you have a broad network with many Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, and other social media contacts. A retweet or a repost of a friend's "Open to Work" message can get that message in front of new people, increasing the chances of a match.
Offer to review resumes
If you have experience hiring or looking for work, you likely have experience with resumes. You can use this knowledge to review your friend's resume. I have seen many bad resumes created by qualified people. A poorly-written resume decreases chances with an employer.
Keep a list
Keep a list of those you know who are looking for work, their skills, and the type of position they seek. Refer to this list when you learn of a job opening. Employers appreciate it when you send someone with the skills they are seeking.
As I mentioned above, I have experienced the frustration of prolonged unemployment. Years ago, I lost my job a month after my first son was born and a year after I bought my first house. The experience seemed devastating at the time, but I took the opportunity to change career paths.
I survived my company's recent layoffs, leaving me only with survivor's guilt.
I was able to help myself then, and I have been able to help others recently. You can too!