Who could be surprised to read in recent news that people receiving severance and unemployment benefits start their job searches later? It’s only natural that when income is flowing in, people put off the daunting and tedious job search task. Unsurprisingly, the longer unemployment benefits continue for the average person, the later the person’s job-search activities begin.
When you’re at home receiving severance, it can feel like vacation pay. The garage needs organizing, and the house needs painting. There is so much to do! While you were working, you never had enough time to train the dog, organize your closets and catch up with friends. Who can blame a job-seeker for delaying a job search when the news from the marketplace is so often discouraging?
A month or six weeks’ break to recover from a layoff is a wonderful luxury for folks who have the means to take it. After that, we may begin to look for excuses not to jump into a job search. As tempting as those diversionary activities can look (I’ve always wanted to take a knitting class/improve my golf game/volunteer at the zoo), this is no time to hesitate. People who are out of work longer have a harder time finding jobs than folks who jump on their job-search projects right away.
Take a look at our Nine Reasons Not to Delay Your Job Search, even if (especially if!) you’re receiving a severance check for sitting at home right now.
- A job search is a disciplined activity, like preparing for a big exam or training for a marathon. When you were working, you followed a daily regimen. You got up, got dressed and off you went. The longer you remain in limbo with your days unstructured and no daily or weekly goals, the harder it can be to get back into the focused schedule that a 2010 job search requires.
- Your network won’t dive in to help you with your search if you’re not engaged in it yourself. You want to touch base (face-to-face is best) with at least three of your network buddies a week, and when you do, you’ll want to be able to tell them what you’re doing about your job search. The longer you wait to connect with your network cronies, the less engaged in your search they will be (and who can blame them)?
- Employers can live with the fact that you’re unemployed – heck, one out of ten people in the US is unemployed everywhere you look, if not more — but they’ll want to know how you’ve spent your time since you left your last employer. “I read War and Peace” is not the answer that employers want to hear when they ask you to account for your post-layoff time.
- You know those job ads that proclaim “We want a motivated self-starter?” Motivation and self-starter-ness show up in a candidate’s job-search activity level, just as they do on the job. You won’t have much claim to membership in the Motivated Self-Starter club if you ran out your severance and/or unemployment benefits before beginning your job search.
- Maybe there aren’t many great jobs in your area of specialization. Apply for all of them anyway, and apply for related jobs too. Most employers prefer working candidates to non-working ones. If a hiring manager has to decide between you and another candidate, who is s/he going to choose — the person who was laid off, jumped back in and is currently working (even at a one-step-back job) or the one who hasn’t worked since his layoff?
- Depending on your background, industry and geography, your job search could take three to six to nine months or more. Can you afford to wait several months before starting? Hiring processes are as slow as molasses right now. The sooner you dive in, the more you’ll learn about the local marketplace, the more you’ll cultivate useful contacts, and the more your job-search confidence will grow.
- If you came across the perfect job right now, would you be ready? Wouldn’t it be great to be primed for the task of snagging the job of your dreams? Ideally, you’d have applied for and interviewed for multiple jobs before pursuing your dream job. Get those early missteps and painful learning experiences (virtually unavoidable) out of the way before the high-stakes job opportunity presents itself.
- Avid job-seekers often uncover consulting gigs as they come across opportunities to help employers with short-term needs. These folks are in highly favorable spots as ‘permanent’ openings are created, because they’re already known and liked inside the employer. If you’re not on the market talking with people and exploring employer pain points, you won’t be one of those most-favored candidates. The consulting income is not bad, either!
- The job market is changing fast. Boilerplate resumes are a thing of the past, and resume (not just cover letter) customization is in. The more jobs you apply for, the more you’ll learn about how and when to customize your materials for specific opportunities. The sooner you begin, the better.
A fellow called me last week, and he said “I was laid off in August, and I just got hired this week. Here is the crazy part: “The version of me who was sending out resumes last August would never have gotten the job that I got this week.”
“What has changed about you?” I asked.
“Everything has changed,” he said. “Five months is a long time. My resume has changed a dozen times. My interviewing technique has changed. I’m twice as strong a candidate now as I was back then, and I’m certain that the time and experience I got on the job market helped get me my job this week.”
Don’t wait until the wolf is at the door to start your job search. Get your engine up and running today!