It has been an adventure to be unemployed for the first time in my adult life during a global pandemic. I am not alone. Many people, including some 3 million U.S. women, have left the workforce. The reasons are as varied as the people you will meet on any given day. Children learning remotely. Closure of daycare centers. Illness. Layoffs. Mounting work stress. Death and loss and more grief than most of us have ever experienced.
When I typically would be booting up my computer to start the workday, I do so with a different goal in mind these days. I am searching for the organization that needs my skills at this unique moment in time. I have been in the market for a new job for almost a year. On a given day, I may submit my resume for five jobs or thirty. Some days, I want to throw up my hands and wail in frustration. Those days come and go, just as the days when I am most proud of myself, most self-assured and ready for whatever life brings next.
The Unemployment Roller Coaster
I cannot claim to be an expert at applying for work, but I know my resume has improved each month of my job search. I have reached out to mentors and friends throughout the process, seeking their input. I update my resume for each application, matching keywords from job descriptions and company cultures. My situation is unique because I’ve worn many hats. I need to highlight different skills and experiences depending on the job for which I’m applying, so it’s a time-consuming process. I’ve recently heard recruiters say that cover letters don’t matter, but as a writer, that makes me cringe. Regardless, the following are a few observances about my experience on the unemployment roller coaster over the past year.
Never say “no” before knowing the details.
Most workers today have uploaded their resumes to a job site such as Indeed or have created a LinkedIn profile. If you have the right background and experience, you are likely to be contacted by a recruiter. You may also have the opportunity to advance through a pre-interview screening for a role that you think is not quite the right fit for your goals and aspirations. If a recruiter reaches out to you and asks for an interview, take it. You may be looking for full-time work only, but find a part-time role. Perhaps you will find a company with a culture that does not seem to be what you are looking for. Make no assumptions.
I have also been contacted by countless individuals about work as an independent contractor. Do not turn down any chance to discuss a job, even as a contractor when you are searching for a position on staff. If you have the time, schedule the interview anyway. If nothing else, you will have had plenty of practice interviewing when you finally land that interview for your dream job.
Be curious and open to new experiences.
The experience is part of the adventure! Just because you have not filled a particular role in the past does not mean you would not shine with a different job title. Be curious and ask as many questions as you can. You may be a perfect fit for a new type of job based on your transferable skills, past work experience, or even volunteer activities. Don’t limit yourself by assuming you should not or cannot do a good job in a new role.
Sell more of yourself and your personality and less of your skills and experiences.
Skills can be learned. Every good job opportunity will offer full training and mentorships. Of course, it is important that you can fulfill the requirements of the job, but first, you need to bring yourself to work. If you are an introvert who thrives in an autonomous setting, share that with the hiring manager. In interviews that I felt it would be beneficial, I shared that I am an Advocate (INFJ), the rarest of all personality types. Some company is going to be fortunate to have you on their team.
One of my career aspirations is to work in academia. I recognize that it’s extremely difficult to break into that industry, especially with a four-year degree. I know the pay can be lower than the business world, but I would jump at the chance to earn a master’s degree at a reduced or no cost. I set up job alerts for a handful of organizations in which I would fit well, and I apply for everything. If you are persistent, someone just may notice you after a few tries. Granted, they may roll their eyes when they see your application for yet another role. Or they may give you a chance.
Don’t take it personally when the job is not the right fit.
This may be the most important tip that I can share with you. If you make it through several rounds of interviews and are not selected for a position, it is not a personal affront to you. I work in an extremely competitive field. I tell myself regularly that I may be going up against people with more experience or more education. It has not been easy, but I have tried to stay positive and tell myself, “I didn’t get that job, and that means it wasn’t the right fit.” Keep searching for that right fit.
Believe in yourself.
It is a frustrating process, and it is normal to be disappointed. I cannot stress this enough: It is vital that you continue believing that you will find work. This season of your life will reach an end. You will find the beginning of a new, rewarding journey. I will not practice toxic positivity but I will encourage you to believe in yourself, even if you feel as if you are the only one who does. Especially if you feel you are the only one who does. You are offering a set of skills when you apply for a job, and while millions of other people have the same skills, you are the only one who does it like you do. Be proud of that.