Unemployment is traumatic, and people who have been there never shake the fear of going back. If you've spent five months job-hunting (an average amount of time) you have probably faced worry, uncertainty and financial desperation.
Here are some things you can do while you are employed so that next time you're looking for work, the task is much, much easier:
The worst job hunt experiences are when you have to take the first job you get because you are risking financial ruin. If you save money when you are employed you'll be able to be a lot more picky when you're looking for a new job. Almost everyone is desperate when they are unemployed, and one of the hardest things to do in an interview is act self-confident when you're feeling down. This task if even harder if you're going to be out on the street in three weeks.
Also, unemployment gives you lots of time but little money to spend. If you have some savings you'll be able to enjoy the time you have when you're not working. After all, you can't job hunt all day every day — it would make you crazy.
This isn't something you do when you need a job. It's something you do when you have one, when you're feeling confident. If you are good at making connections with people, and you do it regularly, then people will be there to help you when you need a job. If you contact people only when you need help you are not a networker, you are a sponge.
You don't need to be friends with everyone, but you need to have some real friends. Note that friends are not people you go out drinking with occasionally. Friends are people you are very honest and forthcoming with, and people who depend on you. When it comes time to get help, it's not the people you're friends with who will help — they have the same information that you do. It's the friends of friends who will help. And they don't come by way of superficial connections.
Focus on achievements
Your resume is what gets you an interview. Even if you are using connections from your network, sooner or later, someone will say, “Send me your resume and I'll take a look.” Your resume should have a few, huge achievements that the rest of the lines are built around. When you are gainfully employed, look for opportunities to create these achievements.
This means being selective in what projects you take on. Projects that are going to do very little for your resume should not take up a lot of your time — do them as quickly as possible and move on. Projects that will give you the chance to highlight grand and quantifiable results on your resume are projects you should be willing to volunteer for. These projects are worth working late nights, taking on huge risk, and working with people you hate.
On a well-crafted resume, one line of greatness can cut months off your unemployment suffering.
The jobs that are staying in the US feature some form of creativity — from troubleshooting, to management to strategy. Hone your skills as a creative thinker so that you can sell yourself that way next time you need to find a job.
So many people who are in non-creative jobs tell me that they are creative and their job is safe from off-shoring. They are delusional. Here's a test to give yourself:
Do you come up with new product ideas or features?
Does set up intra-departmental process?
Do you work face-to-face with other people all day?
If you answered no to all three questions think hard about how to make your job more creative and people-oriented so that you can find a new job without moving to India.
The good news is that each of these recommendations will improve your career. Your work will be more interesting and you will bring more joy to your job and the people you meet. The added benefit is that you will have it easier next time you are unemployed, which means a little less worrying now.