You’ve just been laid off and you have to find another job. You turn to your contacts in Outlook and there aren’t many names of people besides those with whom you work. You look through your phone contacts and it’s just a list of your friends and family. You’ve lost touch with folks from prior jobs. You don’t have a mentor. Who’s going to help you get a new job?
Many folks this past year have faced this moment. It’s compounded by the fact that being laid off often comes with a stigma; the employees who retain their jobs either don’t know what to say to you or don’t want to talk with you for fear that they’ll be at risk of losing their job. The result: you quickly get cut off from the network you’ve invested the most in most recently.
When you find yourself in this place, it is tempting to feel defeated and to recoil from others out of shame. In fact, however, this is the worst thing you can do. The most important thing to do at this moment is to get out, to communicate, and to network. This is the only way to get a competitive edge when looking for a job.
Tell everyone you know that you have been laid off and are looking for a job. Be as specific as possible about the kind of job you are looking for. Be as specific as possible about how each person might help you. Build your circle of friends, family, acquaintances, etc. who are willing to help you find new employment. This is your personal circle of influence. These are the people who will forward you job listings, mention your name to a prospective employer, discuss career interests with you, review your CV, role play a mock interview with you, etc.
I believe the single most important thing someone can do to find a job is to network. If you don’t have a network to “work,” then you need to build one. Build your personal network by considering the following sources:
- Friends (including H.S. and College friends);
- College career center;
- Pastor or other person of faith;
- Former co-workers, including boss/supervisor;
- Lawyer/CPA/Other professionals you know;
- Chamber of Commerce staff/members;
- Professional association staff/members; and
- Be creative!
One of the best ways to create a network is to identify a volunteer opportunity that closely aligns with your career goals. When I was transitioning from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector, I listed my volunteer experiences–all of which were in the nonprofit sector. I was able to not only list the volunteer experiences (a little citizen lobbying, grassroots organizing, grantwriting, and facilitating), but the names of the individuals with whom I had worked. These individuals had not only become part of my network, but also strong nonprofit references. In the end, these volunteer experiences were the difference between me getting my dream job and not.
Suggested Action Items
- Become a volunteer: Contact VolunteerMatch.com and find a nonprofit near you that you’d enjoy helping and that might be a good fit for your career. (A good local organization is the Voluntary Action Center at vacmo.org.) Don’t go in expecting career advancement, but it might just happen! The boards of directors of nonprofit organizations are often stacked with the most influential and connected individuals in a city or community. Getting to know one or more of these individuals can be invaluable to your search.
- Stay active in your community: Stay visible. Go and be places where you will see people with whom you need to be connected. For example: Looking for a government job? Go to the League of Women Voter’s Legislative Town Hall Meeting or the Appreciation Lunch for the Mayor. The old “out of sight, out of mind” addage is deadly for someone who’s looking for a job. If you can’t afford to buy your way into an event, consider volunteering to help as a way to attend.
- Conceptualize your search as a full-time job: Searching for a job is your job when you’re unemployed. Record the time you’re logging every week and what you’re doing. Include the time you spend volunteering and networking if that seems appropriate to you.