Lesson Learned from Unemployment

Lesson 1: Have six months salary in the bank at all times

This is lesson is easy to remember and easy to forget.  You’ve all been told for years now to keep plenty of money in the bank for emergencies and unemployment is the reason why.  I didn’t keep nearly this much and I’m paying a heavy price.

Lesson 2: Always maintain your social network.

For technology people, maintaining a local network of people both professionally and social is hard work.  Most folks like me would rather spend their off hours studying technology or working on tech gear, but working the room at a chamber of commerce mixer is worth it’s weight in gold when you’re out of a job.  Also, as people get older, the too easily dismiss modern methods of social networking.  For example, I have a [Twitter](http://twitter.com/houseofwarwick) account but most people my age wouldn’t likely know what it was, let alone how to use it effectively.  Worse, it would be dismissed as a ‘waste of time’.  That’s exactly the wrong attitude to have.  I spent 2 hours updating mutual contacts in [LinkedIn](http://linkedin.com/in/stevekirks/) and found three people in this area that have good job leads for me.

Lesson 3: Structure your time.

Each day without a job should be treated like a regular work day.  Get up on time and get to the gym like always.  Be sure to leave the house and head for a library, Barnes and Noble, Starbuck or something to keep you in the public and “be seen”.  Set appointments with friends to explain your situation and ask for ideas.  Keeping a schedule means you get to feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day and that’s important because without a job, most people feel a loss of self worth.

Lesson 4: Be upfront about your job loss.

I spent a couple of days being ashamed that I lost a job.  I wondered about blame (mine? theirs? who’s?) and even tried to reconstruct events to figure out where I went wrong.  In my case, the situation was more clear than others, so it was easy to move past the “blame game” and move on to getting the word out.  Call everyone you can and let them know.  The more people that know about your job loss means better chances at finding a new job.  It also means more people to look at your resumé that can give good feedback, helping your chances with recruiters and HR staff.

That’s all for now.  I’ve got more to write, but I’ve got work to do here at the house and (hopefully) an appointment later today.

10 thoughts on “Lesson Learned from Unemployment

  1. Steve, there’s great insight here.

    One thing I would add is that you’re right to treat job search as a job in itself, but spending a full work day doing it is tough and doesn’t always reap dividends.

    Instead, spend half a day (the morning, when you’re fresh) on the job search and the other half- learning and improving your skills. Most pros will get enjoyment from that second half – which will also help you avoid job search depression – but most importantly, it will help increase your value in eyes of recruiters.

    Plus, if you learn in a way that brings you in contact with people in your industry, that alone may lead you to your next job.

    Stumbled this for you-

  2. “Lesson 1: Have six months salary in the bank at all times”

    It’s possible to get some kind of income protection insurance and the premiums can be quite cheap.

  3. Steve, I found your blog through Dzone. +1 for your candid post!

    There are two kinds of people in the world, those who have been where you are now, and those who haven’t but will someday. I experienced an unexpected job loss a couple of years ago, and I’d add is an “anger addendum” to your Lesson 4. If your loss was caused by being screwed, you need to give yourself time get over being ticked off. If not regulated, anger can be an energy drain, and give your persona a negative aura that others can pick up on. In my case, I needed six months to get over “it.”

    There’s a saying, “If you saw your former boss on fire, would you p**s on him to put the fire out?” When you can laugh at that, you’re dealing well with it. 🙂

    The other thing I’d say is, you WILL get another job, you WILL get a better job, than the one you just left. Our society wraps so much up around our employment, you have to fight all of that conditioning. Remind yourself, you are NOT your job! There are more and better adventures around the corner, and it WILL happen.

    Oh, one more thing. Can’t say enough about playing Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” at full blast. Though that might be a boomer thing…


  4. Excellent article Kirk. Wish I had read it a year before when I lost my job contract. I learned the hard way that you must maintain/ improve your social network, keep your spirits up, and make searching for employment a full time job. Good luck in your employment search Kirk.

  5. I think this is very good advice. Thanks for posting it. Another piece of advice while unemployed: “Stay Sharp.” Try learning some new technology. (There sure are enough frameworks and languages to choose from.)

  6. “Lesson 1: Have six months salary in the bank at all times”

    Any reason why you recommend 6 months of salary? The tip I have always heard was enough money to live off of for 6 months.

  7. Seven years ago while out of a job I unfortunately didn’t have money in the bank: it had all gone into a startup I’d founded that got wiped out by the dot-crash.

    My wife and I living in a friend’s spare apt (having given someone their first job out of college paid off then!) And eating MREs was powerful motivation to put in 8+ hours a day on the job search. It paid off within two weeks with the highest paying gig I’ve ever had, during the worst days of the tech sector.

    I had to force myself to do it most days in the midst of dark depression and self doubt, and did three rounds of phone interviews from the public library in SF’s payphones.

    As the chinese saying goes, “persistence brings good fortune,” so just stick with it no matter what.

  8. Hello Steve, I found your entry by accident from an old colleague Scott Greiff.

    Your entry is very insightful and positive – good for you!

    I echo several points made by others – give yourself time to get over it, move on, keep busy, keep learning, better things will come. As one door closes, another opens…

    I was laid off in 2001 after a lifetime (25 years) of regular full-time employment. I was a regional IT Manager with a good salary so it was very hard.

    It took me 2 years to get over it! But it’s taught me many lessons and although it’s been a struggle I would not trade my present situation for the old days at all.

    I’ve never worked full-time for a company since and have become “unemployable”.

    However I’ve learned an entirely new and unexpected skillset which is more valuable than my old career, and allows me to work on local, national and international online advertising campaigns from my study.

    Plus website design and publishing.

    More at my website http://www.adwordsanswers.com

    All the very best to you!

  9. Steve,

    Good writing! I too ended up here because of Scott Greiff’s blog. A testiment to social networking, for sure. I have a slightly different take on saving money for an event like this. After a reasonable start-up success, I put away enough for 6 months expenses based upon both my wife’s and my incomes.

    I think another thing to consider is whether there are other steps we can take in advance, and this is once again strongly based on social networking. I proactively left a job after 9 years to refresh myself and after updating my LinkedIn profile, I began to get a lot queries from recruiters looking for someone with my skills.

    It may be wise to freshen up LinkedIn or whatever you are using on a regular basis to attract this kind of attention.

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