ROBYN: I’m Robyn Moreno for howdini.com. It’s never easy to be unemployed, but it’s got to be tough during a recession. How do you search for a job when so many people are losing theirs? With us to talk about how to find a job during a recession is Maggie Mistal, a career consultant and career coach on Martha Stewart Radio. Glad to have you, Maggie.
MAGGIE: Thanks, Robyn.
ROBYN: What advice do you have for someone who lost their job and now has to find one during these tough times?
MAGGIE: So first and foremost, what I like to do is tell folks to focus on what they do have. Do you have any kind of savings? Do you have any kind of support system? Really look at what you do have so that you can calm down, that’s step one. Once you can calm down, then you can look at your skills and say okay. Well, wait; I’ve been let go at this particular company. Is it the entire industry that’s suffering, or is it just mine? So if it’s not the industry, then I can start to look for jobs in other companies in my industry. If it’s an industry-wide problem, that’s a different story. What you want to look for there, is well am I really good at this? Do I really love what I’m doing? Because at these moments, if you’re in a job that you really haven’t loved for a long time and you’ve been let go, it’s actually an opportunity. It’s a newfound freedom to focus on something that makes you passionate, something that perhaps you’ve always wanted to do.
ROBYN: But it’s pretty normal to be depressed when you get laid off. How would someone cope emotionally after being laid off?
MAGGIE: Absolutely. Well there are, you know, trained theorists and psychologists who studied, you know, the psychology of change. And you know, when you get let go from a job it’s a pretty serious and traumatic change that wasn’t instituted by you. So you want to recognize that feeling that pit in your stomach, that sense of despair, that ‘what’s going to happen to me’ feeling, is completely natural and unfortunately is part of the process. Fear, concern, anxiety is something you have to go through; however, you will come out of that, you know, depth of despair into the opportunities where you can learn, where you recognize, wait a minute. I’ve gone through this before. I mean if you look at the economy, and the situations we’re in now, six years ago, the economy with the terrorist attacks, we have very similar problems with the Internet bubble. This is not a new scenario in your career. Recognize that you’ve made it through these problems before and you will again. But until you kind of go through that feeling of anxiety at first, then you can come out of it and see positive opportunities; start to come out, talk to your network and start to say, ‘I’m looking for something like this. Can you help me?’
ROBYN: Is there anything else that we can be doing, any other resources that a job seeker should know about?
MAGGIE: I recommend that people seek out a mentor or someone who can, a career coach, someone who can help them identify their unique gifts and talents, their unique passions, and really leverage those in their career going forward. Because if you truly want job security, you can’t rely on your boss to give it to you; can’t rely on your company to give it to you; you can’t rely on the economy to give it to you. But you can rely on yourself, and when you play to your strengths and when you do what you love, you’re going to be better at it than other people. Another great resource that a lot of people don’t take advantage of is their alumni network that they have from college or University. And alumni services today really recognize that they can provide career value. So if you get back in touch with your University, in the alumni services group they can put you in touch with people maybe for job opportunities, or for information interviews where you can find out about new and different careers. And really just a positive injection of people who can help and support you, who care about you because they’re all part of the same alumni network. So that’s definitely one to think about.
ROBYN: Maggie, what’s the number one mistake that people make when they look for a job?
MAGGIE: The number one mistake that people make is saying, ‘I’ll take anything’ Robyn. Most people, when I talk to them, I’ll say well what are you looking for. ‘Really, I’ll take anything. At this point, it doesn’t really matter; I have to do what I have to do.’ And when you talk to recruiters and hiring managers, that’s their worst nightmare.
ROBYN: How long should it take for someone to find a job, and at what point, after not finding anything, should you start thinking, you know what, I’m going to change careers, go outside of my field, maybe even move across the country?
MAGGIE: On average, it takes about three to four months in a good economy for someone to find a job. So if things are a little tough, especially in your industry, it could take longer. It could take six months; it could take a year. And again, I don’t say that to scare people; I say that for the folks who are planning for that downturn to really be prepared. But if it takes three to four months, and you’re getting to that end of the four months saying, you know what, it’s just not working. I feel like I’ve exhausted my network, I feel like I’ve exhausted all the opportunities in this area, then it may be time to look at moving to a new industry or to a new area. The one thing I will caution you in though, is that just to move is not the answer, because if you move somewhere that you don’t want to live, and you take a job that you don’t want to do, you’re not going to be very successful. So you want to be very careful and still strategic about those moves; that it takes you to a place that’s going to be better, more fulfilling, make you happier, and not in the opposite direction.