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The Simple Dollar

'I can’t find a job in this economy!'

Here are tips for getting beyond the problem and finding solutions - and a job.

By Guest blogger / September 3, 2010

Jasmine Longmire (center), of Detroit, waits in line while attending a job fair on Aug. 25, in Southfield, Mich. Tip for the jobless: finding a job is your full-time responsibility. Put 40 hours a week into actively seeking work.

Paul Sancya / AP

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I get a lot of emails from people with the above statement, usually followed by some sort of plea for help. I have a lot of sympathy for their situation. I can’t even imagine how painful it would be to not have a steady income, have no luck finding work, and have others depending on you to provide an income.

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Whenever I see an email like this, though, I usually respond with many of the same points (often tailored to a specific situation, of course, but the ideas are constant). What follows are the things I almost always tell people who are having difficulty finding work right now.

First of all, don’t waste another second passing blame for this situation. Yes, the economy isn’t particularly strong. Yes, depending on your political beliefs, it’s all the Republican Party’s or the Democratic Party’s fault. Yes, the president (Bush or Obama, choose one based on your political ideas) is/was a horrible individual who is trying/has tried to destroy the country.

Guess what? All of that time and energy spent thinking about or fretting about who or what to blame only reduces your own chances of finding work. You have an immediate problem on your plate that needs a solution. That solution requires all of your energy and your focus, and burning away that energy and focus by passing blame off to politicians or government or employers or former coworkers just takes away from what you need to be doing right now. Save that spitfire for the next election cycle, when you’ve got a good job. If you’re unemployed, don’t waste your energy on it – spend it on getting employed.

Remember, no one owes you anything. People don’t “deserve” things, they earn them.

The same thing goes for activities you do that help you “unwind” or “escape.” So often, I hear from people who say things like “I can’t find anything, so I spend all day at home surfing the ‘net.”

Yes, it’s good to relax a bit, but treat your unemployment like it’s a job and spend at least forty hours a week specifically looking for work. If you need to unwind, do it in the evenings. I like to unwind with a glass of wine and a game – maybe for you it’s a television show or a movie or surfing the ‘net. However, I also know that I should only be unwinding if I have something to unwind from.

So, how can you spend that time searching for a job?

One big thing you need to do is expand your search horizons in several different directions. You need to look for jobs outside of your local area and accept that you may need to move to find work. Look nationally – and even internationally – for jobs that match the skills you bring to the table.

Similarly, you may have to seek out a job that’s “beneath you.” No job is “beneath you.” I always think of that snippet from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when I hear that someone won’t apply for a job that’s “beneath” them…

Clark: “How can they have nothing for their children?”
Ellen: “Well, he’s been out of work for close to seven years.”
Clark: “In seven years, he couldn’t find a job?”
Ellen: “Catherine says he’s been holding out for a management position.”

If it came down to a choice between picking vegetables for minimum wage or losing the house my children have lived in since they were born, I’d pick green beans from sunup to sundown, go home, and work on job applications. The same goes for flipping burgers in the kitchen at McDonalds or any other job that might be “beneath” me – because, frankly, they’re not.

At the same time, you should always be searching for jobs in your field of expertise. Start by polishing that resume until it shines. Go over it and over it again. Have friends review it. Submit it to resume experts – even bloggers who might use it for a post on their site. Get it perfect – and make sure it highlights the best of you very clearly, so that you stand out.

You should also keep your skills sharp and, at the same time, promote yourself. How do you do that? Get involved in the community of people online. Dig into projects that utilize your skills. Never stop learning new things. Open a Twitter account and join in the conversation in your field (and link to your Twitter feed everywhere you can so that it comes up first when people Google you). This is not only part of the job hunt, it’s part of what will make you successful in your field.

The final key piece of advice? Don’t give up. Never, ever stop searching for the perfect job for you. Yes, you might find yourself working in something that you don’t believe matches your skills, but that doesn’t mean you don’t spend your spare time getting yourself ready to find that perfect job.

Good luck.

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