Charles Dickens had it right. For some of us, this is the worst of times. Our house has been foreclosed, or seen its value drop dramatically. Fuel costs are killing us. Rice is scarce, and getting scarcer. Food prices are soaring. Businesses are folding. Companies are cutting their work force dramatically. Millions are out of work.
But there are others who are barely touched by any of this. They cannot understand what we are going through. 138,000,000 people still have jobs, in the U.S. Some of them, well-paying jobs. They are well off, and in some cases, have money to burn. For them, this is the best of times. They cannot understand our pain.
But we, when we are out of work, go looking for another job; but we, when we are finding it difficult to feed our families, go looking for a better-paying job. And that is when we run into the nature of the job-market, and the nature of the job-hunt. It isn't as easy as we thought it was going to be.
Tom Jackson has well characterized the nature of the job-hunt as one long process of rejection. In job-interview after job-interview, what some of us hear the employer say is:
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES.
Before we get to that final YES-or if we are lucky, two YESES, so that we have a choice-before we get there, the job-hunt is nothing but one long process of rejection. And we, so unprepared for this, go into a kind of Rejection Shock.
Naturally, we have questions.
I just lost my job. How many others are in the same predicament?
Well, you've got lots of company. As of April 2008, the number of people out of work totaled at least 7,800,000 individuals. And that's a government figure. In the U.S. there are always many more people out of work than the government will ever admit-regardless of which party is in power.
Will I need a computer and Internet access, to go about my job-hunt in this twenty-first century?
It's not mandatory, and if you don't have a computer, there are non-Internet job-hunting resources, of course. For example, if because you lack a computer you can't access "Job postings" by employers on the Internet, you can always look at the "Help Wanted Ads" in your local newspaper, especially the Sunday edition.
There are also regional papers devoted to nothing but job openings, such as Job-Dig which, at this writing, publishes fourteen local weekly newspapers in twelve states, mostly mid-western (from Minnesota down to Texas). A subscription for thirteen weeks costs job-hunters $65. Call 877-456-2344 to see whether or not there's a local paper covering your part of the country.
According to the latest figures, however, at least 71 percent of Americans use the Internet, which adds up to 216 million users. Others, of course, usually have a friend who can go on the Internet for them.
Moreover, if you know how to use a computer but just don't happen to own one at the moment, many public libraries as well as "Internet caf��s" can let you use their computer for a fee. (To locate the Internet caf�� nearest you, have a friend use his or her computer, to input your zip code into the comprehensive directory found at www.cybercaptive.com.)
In view of this virtual omnipresence of the computer in our culture now that we are firmly in the twenty-first century, I have freely listed job-hunting resources that are found only on the Internet throughout the rest of this guide.
What are the most helpful job sites on the Web?
For overall free guides to the entire job-hunt process, in addition to my own website, www.jobhuntersbible.com, there are seven sites you will find are the most comprehensive and helpful:
1. www.job-hunt.org, run by Susan Joyce.
2. www.jobstar.org, run by Mary Ellen Mort.
3. www.rileyguide.com, run by Margaret F. Dikel.
4. www.quintcareers.com, run by Dr. Randall Hansen.
5. www.cacareerzone.org, run by the California Career Resource Network. Once you are on the home page, it gives you a choice between running the site under Text, Graphic, or Flash. Choose Graphic.
6. www.asktheheadhunter.com, run by Nick Corcodilos.
7. www.indeed.com, run by a privately held company founded by Paul Forster and Rony Kahan, with the New York Times Company among its shareholders. This is the answer to a job-hunter's prayer. There are lots of "job-boards" out there, thousands in fact; these, if you don't know, are websites that list employers' job-postings, i.e., vacancies. Such postings are also to be found on employers' own company or organization sites. Want to look through every one of them? No, you don't. What you want is something that sweeps through all of them for you, and summarizes what it finds-in just one place. What you need is the site called Indeed (URL above). It is the most comprehensive job search service on the Web, as it "plucks" job listings from thousands of company websites, job boards, newspapers, and associations. It has a UK site, whose URL, not surprisingly, is www.indeed.co.uk.
My picture of the job-hunt during this computer age, is that you call up a search engine, like Indeed, and input the job-title you're looking for, and the geographical area you'd prefer, and by the next morning or within a few days at most, you're told there is a match. A match between your experience and skills, on the one hand, and what some employer is looking for, on the other hand, with a vacancy they're trying to fill.
Ah, you're exactly right. That's how it works, these days. There are thousands of testimonials from job-hunters who have used the Internet successfully, to find a match, and thence a job. But this job-matching doesn't work for every job-hunter. In fact, it doesn't work for the vast majority of job-hunters. (Ouch!)
Well, job-matching works by using job-titles, and job-titles are, generally speaking, a big problem for the Internet. Well, not a big problem when you're looking for a job that has a simple title, such as "secretary," or "gardener," or "nurse," or "driver," or "waitress," or "mechanic," or "salesperson." Any of these should turn up a lot of matches.
But, you may be looking for a job that various employers call by differing titles, and that's an entirely different ballgame. If you guess wrongly what they call the job you're looking for, then you and those employers will be like two ships passing in the night, on the Internet high seas. Your faithful, hardworking computer will report back to you in the morning: "No matches," when in fact there actually are. You just didn't guess correctly what title those employers are using. Oops!
Another problem: you may be looking for a job-title that essentially has disappeared from the workforce. Over the centuries, our economy has moved from one largely based on agriculture, to one largely based on manufacturing, to one largely based on information and services. As each transition has occurred, certain job-titles have essentially disappeared from the workforce, and in large numbers. Oh, they're still around, but in such small numbers that no one tells the Internet. "Blacksmith" is one example that comes to mind. There are blacksmiths, still; I happen to know of one of them. But I wouldn't count on the Internet turning up many matches, if any, with this title. The same fate generally awaits job-titles with the old words "assembly line" and "manufacturing" in them. As John McCain truthfully told Michigan voters during the Republican primaries in early 2008, "those jobs aren't coming back."
Finally, job-titles are a problem for an Internet search because a particular search program on the Internet may depend completely on beginning with a prepared list of job-titles that you are required to choose from, and in the interests of space and speed their menu may only offer you a choice between two dozen or so job-titles, which does not come even close to mentioning all the possibilities; i.e., the 20,000 job-titles that are out there in the workforce-including, of course, the one that you are searching for, in particular.
So sure, Internet job-matching works. Sometimes. Beautifully. You must try it, using Indeed, or a general search engine such as Google, or Metacrawler. Input anything or everything you can think of to describe what you are looking for.
But know ahead of time that you can't count on it necessarily working for You. In the end, it's a big fat gamble. And not at all the sure thing that so-called experts would have you think it is.
So, how many job-hunters who try to find a match, fail to find a match, on the Internet?
There are various answers to that question. Take your pick: (1) Lots and lots. (2) 90 percent. Some studies have indicated that about 90 percent of those seeking a match, on the Internet, fail to find it. (3)? Big fat question mark. Studies are notoriously unreliable, so-in the end-we don't really know. We're just left with "lots and lots."
So, if you realize that Internet job-matching is a big, fat gamble, that's all you really need to know.
Oh, and one more thing. Know this: it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, if the Internet can't match you up with a job. The problem is the system itself.
Well then, given all this, how long should I expect to be out of work?
This varies, hugely, due to a number of variables: what kind of work you're looking for, what part of the country you live in, the state of the industry, how old you are or how young you are, and-above all else-how you're going about your job hunt.
But you need to be prepared for the fact that your job-hunt might last nineteen weeks or more. In fact, as of the date I am writing (May 1, 2008), 1,300,000 people in the U.S. had been looking for work for twenty-seven weeks or more. It's possible that you'll find work sooner; but you've got to be prepared for the fact that you may not.
Okay, if there's a chance that my job-hunt may take much longer than I expected, what's the first thing I should do?
Sleep. Catch up on your sleep. You're kidding. No, I'm not. Overall, you would be wise to think of your job-hunt as an endurance contest, analogous to running a marathon. Especially if it does last nineteen weeks or longer. You need to start training, before you "run" this endurance contest.
Experience teaches us that you should begin by drawing down your "sleep deficit." You've probably got one. Chances are, that up until recently you've been working long hours, trying desperately to survive, so now your body and your brain are at the point of exhaustion, without you even noticing.
The last thing you want to do, is to launch yourself into a long job-hunt when you're this tired. So, let it be your first goal to catch up on your sleep, in order that your body and mind can be working at optimum condition as you set out on your job-hunt. You will think more clearly, and make better decisions, if you're not so tired. For guidance about how much and how long, see www.medicinenet.com/sleep/article.htm.
But I haven't time to catch up on my sleep. Yes, you do. You've probably got nineteen weeks ahead of you. Relax. Start sensibly. Begin by catching up.
Many of us are also helped by a fifteen- to thirty-minute nap during midday, after lunch. It helps keep stress down. I had an aunt who started taking naps at the age of thirty-two, and lived 'til she was ninety-seven. Maybe we humans weren't made to go from wake-up until bedtime, all on one big gulp of sleep. Break the sixteen hours in half. There is wisdom to be learned from countries that have siestas. See http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Siesta.
Exercise. The tendency, after you've unexpectedly lost your job, is to curl up in a little ball, assume the fetal position, and turn the electric-blanket up to "9." But job-hunting requires that you get out there. So, begin a regular regimen of daily walking, starting now, even if it's only down to the main road, and back, at first. You can increase the distance, after you've increased your stamina a bit.
Water. And, while you're at it, I know you have enough sense to watch your diet while you're out of work. Eating your way out of feeling low is a real temptation; but putting on, oh, say, one hundred more pounds won't make you look so hot when it comes to the job interview. That's pretty obvious. Not so obvious is your body's need for water. Not "fluids," like coffee, tea, or cola, but actual "water." A lot of things can go wrong with the human body if it gets dehydrated without your even noticing. Believe me, you do not want to be sick while you're job-hunting. If you want to get more guidance about this, see www.watercure .com/faq.html.
"Possibly nineteen weeks or more" is very bad news for me. I'm in a precarious state financially, right now. Where can I go for help with my expenses during my job-hunt?
Unemployment insurance. You probably know all this, but just in case you don't: these are cash benefits that run for a certain number of months while you are unemployed, and are available in the U.S. from your state government, if you regularly report in to them, on how your job-hunt is going. To learn how to apply, go to your computer (or to a computer at your local library, if you don't personally own one) and type the following two pieces of information into your Internet browser (such as Google or Metacrawler): the name of your state, plus the words "unemployment insurance benefits." Once on site, look for the words "unemployment benefits." Or, go to: www.rileyguide .com/claims.html. Free.
(Naturally, greed being what it is, you will find some enterprising souls have put up websites promising that for a fee they will help you file for unemployment benefits. You picture someone sitting down beside you, and helping you fill out the application form, line by line. And maybe showing you the secret of collecting some big bucks. Right? Unfortunately, their "help" is just a booklet, for which they'll charge you around ten bucks, irrevocably ["We do not refund payment for any ... reason"]-after they first get you to cough up all your personal information. [On the pretext of tailoring their program to your special needs!] All they will then do is send or let you download that booklet [their "program"] telling you how to go file, yourself.
Oh, please!! You can get the same information, and better, costing you absolutely nothing, by just using your Internet browser, as I described above.)
Food stamps. To see if you are eligible for help go to: www .fns.usda.gov/fsp/applicant_recipients/10steps .htm. This is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is titled: "10 Steps to Help You Fill Your Grocery Bag Through the Food Stamp Program: Learn If You or Someone You Know Might Be Eligible for Food Stamps."
How do I find health insurance when I am sort of on my own?
Thanks to the Internet, there are several places you can turn to, for information and help:
1. www.healthinsuranceinfo.net. A site, maintained by the Georgetown Health Policy Institute. Chock full of information. Very comprehensive.
2. www.ehealthinsurance.com. It allows individuals to compare policies from different providers, and then purchase the one they like the best. It serves all States, except Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
3. www.freelancersunion.org. You need to work in one of the occupations served by this union; it is for independent workers or consultants. But browse the site, and see.
Even after all this, I'm still having a really hard time financially. I'm falling behind in paying my bills. I feel like I'm drowning. What can I do?
You have several choices:
a. Get a temporary job: one you hate but it brings in money.
b. Get some financial counseling: to stretch what resources you do have.
c. Move back home temporarily: if your parents invite you to.
Let's start with the last one, first. Moving back home, with our parents, has long been a popular strategy for young adults just out of college, who can't find a job. But, in hard times it becomes more and more common even with people who are already in their thirties, forties, or fifties.
Excerpted from What Color Is Your Parachute?by Richard N. Bolles Copyright © 2009 by Richard N. Bolles. Excerpted by permission.
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