Going through transition is a learning experience for anyone who spends time away from gainful employment.
Just ask Leona Wilson, a senior human resources professional who has been “out” of the workforce for nine months, six of which have been of her own volition. Over the past three months she has been actively job seeking and monitoring her experiences, which she generously shares below.
1. Be careful where and with whom you spend your networking time. There are definitely quality meetings and there are meetings that are costly time-wasters. The meetings that work are the ones where you learn something, where the folks you are meeting with are in a positive space and give open feedback that will help you move forward with your search.
2. Keep your mind open to all possibilities. You may be committed only to full-time positions, but who is to say that a part-time or a contract position couldn’t turn into full-time work? Additionally, a contract job may give you new skills that will aid you in getting that next applied for, cherished, FT position. You have the time to explore opportunities you might not otherwise have considered.
3. The resumé is a living, changing document. Tailoring each resumé you send to the job you’re applying to reminds you of accomplishments you might have forgotten.
4. Broaden your network with people outside of your own industry. Once you have decided who your target market is, start looking for people in that industry or demographic to meet. Association meetings of like-minded folks are mandatory, but that should only be one of your networking categories.
5. Every interview is an exercise in discovery. Every interviewer has his or her own style and his or her way of asking questions. You will learn something new about yourself with every interview, so be sure to figure out where you can use that information to your advantage.
6. Stress has to be managed and it comes from different sources. Take the time to eat properly, exercise more and meet with friends to establish good stress-busting habits for when you return to work.
7. Helping others makes you feel confident and valued. Getting out of yourself is crucial at this time. Look around: who else could use a friendly hand? Volunteer on a committee, do charitable work or help out a friend who doesn’t have a skill that you have.
8. I know what you’re feeling. When you walk in other peoples’ shoes it is easier to relate and be empathetic to their situation; we’re all going through the same stuff, just on different days and in different ways.
9. More education is not always necessary to get a foot up on the competition. You can start doubting your own ability when you consistently do not get the job offer after an interview. But going back to get a high-school diploma at age 53 might not be necessary; sometimes further education and another certificate is a good thing, and sometimes it isn’t.
10. Figuring out transferable skills can be tricky. It is important to know your transferable skills and to be able to make them more generic so as to apply to more companies and still meet their requirements.
11. People are happy to help if their time and their expertise is not abused. If you do not ask you do not get. Most people genuinely like to be helpful so strategically ask friends, ex-colleagues and customers for the specific help you think they can assist you with. Be grateful.
12. Complete half-finished home projects and read books you always wanted to read. Crossing tasks or books off a list can be very rewarding for some people as it offers a sense of accomplishment that might be missing from not having a project at work to undertake.
13. Some people are afraid of people in transition. Figure out early in your transition who is comfortable with you talking about your work search and who is not. Some people will be threatened by your status and will transfer the fear factor onto their own inevitability.
14. This is the perfect time to figure out your work values and dream employer. Transition is a time to feel, not just to think. Take the time to write down what you really love about the work you do, what environment you work best in, what your motivators are and how these things all make you feel.
15. Develop friendships, get out of the house and do things for yourself. This is your time, make the most of it. Expand your horizons, socialize, blaze new trails and make a mark on society, as you may never have the time to do so again.
Wilson is particularly touched by the thoughtfulness of people who have shared job postings with her and who have called to see how she is doing without even asking. What you give out comes back ten-fold – remember that.
Originally published on the Workopolis Blog at www.blog.workopolis.com.
From Next November 2011