It’s sad to hear about layoffs at companies like Yahoo. Right now it seems like a bad time to be laid off. I’m here to offer some hope.
I laid myself off in February 2002. Remember that time? It was far worse than what we’ve seen so far in the economic turmoil of 2008. It seemed like EVERYONE was laid off. There was even a Website, fuckedcompany.com, that tracked layoff after layoff. No good news, like the funding of Automattic, was coming out. 9/11 just happened and it seemed to be particularly dire.
But even in that tough time I found a job working at NEC. Here’s some tips I learned from that time.
1. Don’t get lazy. It might seem dire, but if you work it you WILL find a job. Some of my friends went on vacation, started drinking, or generally just hung out with their families. Those people took a LOT longer to find a job than the friends of mine who approached their time off with these tips.
2. Make sure you spend at least 30% of every day trying to find a job. That means working on your resume. Getting your cover letter finished. Sending out resumes. Searching the web for work. Networking. Etc. At first your time spent on these tasks should be a lot higher, but after weeks of watching the job sites for jobs and having your resume checked over by 10 of your friends you will naturally have more time to spend on other things.
3. Start a blog on the field you want to work in. Want to be a PHP programmer? Start a PHP blog and make sure you put world class stuff there. Link to EVERYONE who has a PHP blog. But that’s only the beginning.
4. Do things that will get you to be recognized as a world leader in the field you want to be in. Are you a programmer? Build something and put it up! Share your knowledge on your blog (give tips you’ve learned). Are you a program manager? Those jobs will be tougher to find, but you should demonstrate that you are a great manager of people as well as that you’re expert on the kinds of things you want to do. Demo! Demo! Demo!
5. Learn from Loic Le Meur. How did he get thousands of videos uploaded on Seesmic everyday? He networked. He visited tons of journalists, bloggers, executives. He is a consumate networker (you should watch him work the halls here at the World Economic Forum).
6. Do a video everyday on YouTube that demonstrates something you know. Loic does a video everyday. If you’re laid off you have absolutely no excuses. Get a cheap Web cam and get over to YouTube or Seesmic.
7. Show your friends your resume and cover letter. Don’t have any friends? Now is the time to make some. Call up some interesting people and ask for an informational interview. This is particularly key if you work at a big company and are getting laid off. I watched people at Microsoft get laid off and the ones who had tons of internal informational interviews got new jobs fast. The key is to meet people everyday and get in front of them. Not to beg for a job, but to do research on the industry you want to work in. You’d be amazed how showing some interest in your industry will get noticed itself.
8. Do the basics. I got my NEC job by sending a resume into a job that I found on Craig’s List. Yes, my blog helped me AFTER I got the interview, but I got the interview just by having a great cover letter and an interesting resume.
9. Don’t feel bad about taking government assistance. You’ll need it to pay your bills. I took it and it helped me get over that tough period.
10. Go to any job networking session you learn about. All of them were valuable to me, even though they didn’t necessarily bring me a job. Part of it is just feeling like you’re doing everything you can to get back on your feet. It’s an attitude thing. If you have an attitude that you’re going to work at this that will come across and will bring opportunities to you.
11. Go where the money is. If you are laid off and you haven’t sent your resume to Matt Mullenweg this morning, why not? People with new funding are the ones who are hiring. You want to work for them, so do what you can to at minimum get an informational interview. Why don’t you interview Matt for your blog? You never know, he just might give you an interview and that might lead to a discussion about how you could fit into his company. Even if it doesn’t, at least you get an interesting interview with someone in the industry who is seeing success. Other employers want to be like Matt, so if you have some insights to his success you might be surprised by how that gets you job interviews.
12. Take a little bit of time to work on family and health. You probably haven’t been paying enough attention to these two things. This is the time to start some healthy habits. Give up smoking, if you’re doing that. Drink less (the temptation will be to drink more, don’t give in). Get more exercise. Yes, I should take my own advice (I went for a long walk this morning in Davos and had fish last night).
13. Volunteer. Let’s say you are going to be out of work for six months. What could you do with six months of your time? Make sure you come away with it with a great project under your belt. Why not volunteer your time with a charity that could use your skills? Not only will you feel good about yourself, you’ll come away with job experience so you won’t have a hole in your resume (building an IT system for the Red Cross looks damn impressive — saying you were “on the beach” for six months does not). Plus you’ll make great friends with people who are trying to improve the world (they are typically the kinds of friends you should have anyway).
14. Make sure you take advantage of any help your former employer is offering. Sometimes they have retraining or other programs that might help you land an even better job.
15. See if you can keep coming into the office. This isn’t open to everyone, but at Userland I kept coming into work everyday after the paychecks stopped. That made me feel better, plus it gave me the ability to use phones, stay away from negative situations (do you really want to be around family all day, everyday, who might remind you that you need to find a job?) as well as give you a place to work hard on finding your new job.
16. Go to every business event you can attend. Can’t afford to get in? Me neither and I have a job! Hang out in the hallways. You never know who you might meet. At minimum you’ll get interesting interviews for your blog. Have your resumes ready.
17. Always have your suit ready. Some interviews happen fast “can you be here this afternoon?” The one who is ready will get the interview.
On your resume and cover letter. I found a TON of tips online for how to improve yours. Those tips work. Listen to them. My cover letter is what got me my interview (the guy who ran the group told me that later). My cover letter’s approach came off of tips I found online. Do Google searches for things like “how to write a great cover letter.”
Do you have any tips? Help out people by posting your own blogs and linking to them in my comment area here. Good luck and keep your head up. Lots of people have gotten fired. I’ve talked with quite a few CEOs here at the World Economic Forum and you’d be surprised at how many of them have had bad times in their careers.
I’ll be asking business leaders this week for their tips and will come back to this topic later in the week.