I know this isn't what you want to hear, but the people who are incredibly good at what they do are not unemployed. So if you are unemployed, you probably are not outstanding in your chosen profession. Sorry. But don't feel too bad, because everyone is great at something — you just need to find that thing. And there's no better time to soul-search than when you aren't making money anyway: No lost opportunity cost.
People who have incredible achievements in their career or show amazing promise have resumes that get snapped up quickly. Hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for each job opening, and invariably, three or four of these resumes are outstanding. If your resume is not outstanding, you will not rise to the top of one of these piles.
Sure, there are exceptions: your idiot college roommate who is making six figures or the incompetent co-worker who survived the layoff that you did not. But I bet you cannot think of someone who has rocked the world of every boss she's had yet hunts hopelessly for a job.
Still wondering if you're one of the best? Well, if you haven't received some sort of offer in five or six months, that is not a good sign. Doors open when someone incredible knocks — even companies with hiring freezes make exceptions for outstanding candidates. Mike Russiello, CEO of Brainbench, says, “Companies are getting very good at identifying top performers — looking at things like, past roles in projects, certifications, and how someone interviews.” You are not going to fake anyone out with inflated Internet titles or achievements you cannot quantify. If you're not top you're not top.
And do not try to console yourself by saying that you are a rare find who suffers from bad networking. Sure, good networking helps. But the truth is that if you really are a rare find, the network comes to you. If you are amazing at your chosen profession, people call you, people check in with you, people want to be near you. You don't need good networking skills to answer your phone when it rings. You only need good networking skills to compensate for the fact that no one calls.
But instead of banking on good networking skills, how about changing careers to do something at which you are, indeed, outstanding? Unemployment is a great point in life to make use of excess time to figure out where your gifts really lie and what you really love to do.
Most people who are not outstanding in their job are not doing what they really love. The good news is that if you do what you love, you're more likely to end up rich. One survey of 1500 undergraduate business students found that 87% of the students said they wanted to make money quickly and figure out self-fulfillment later. The remaining 13% of the students said gratification was more important than money. Twenty years later 101 of those students were millionaires and all but one of those students were from the group who said gratification was more important than money.
There's nothing like a bad economy to make you more honest with yourself. Less money to go out to dinner, less money to go shopping: Try sitting at home and doing some soul-searching. At least entertain the possibility that you are not that great at your work and your talents lie somewhere else. You can spend another six months sending out mediocre resumes to scarce job leads, or you can recreate yourself as a person who is in love with your career choice and more passionate and competent than any of your competitors.
Change is difficult. And career change is especially scary. But in this economy, some people will find that not changing is more risky than changing.