JVS Career Voice

Our experts share career and employment advice

Unemployed? 5 first steps to take control of job search

looking for workFinding yourself out of work can be a devastating experience. Job loss is widely acknowledged as one of the top ten life stressors, the effects of which have been directly linked to decreased physical and mental health for many people. Just like many traumatic life events, people rarely expect to find themselves out of work and are often caught off guard, unprepared and overwhelmed by the road ahead.  Typically, the effects vary widely, though many struggle with normal loss reactions such as denial (leading to procrastination and avoidance), feelings of anger, sadness and isolation.

While most job searchers are able to handle these challenges and press forward, it always helps to develop a plan.  Preparation can go a long way to overcoming these feelings and staying in control of the job search process.

These first 5 steps might be an effective way to begin the process:

1.  Do some financial planning.

Look ahead further than you think you might need; you might not expect to be out of work for long, but sometimes it is longer than you would like. Many job searchers have been caught having to compromise their choice of jobs because they find themselves strapped for cash. Have a timeline — figure out how long you can afford to go without a new source of income and plan forward.  Develop a back up plan: what will you do if you do not secure a job by your expected date? What compromises might you make in terms of lifestyle and the type of position you would be willing to accept?

Tip: Check on your eligibility for Employment Insurance. File a claim as soon as possible; Service Canada warns on their website that “If you delay filing your claim for benefits for more than four weeks after your last day of work, you may lose benefits”. Also — don’t assume that you are not eligible – contact them and find out.  If approved, make sure to clarify your exact start and end dates, using their online service.

2. Take time to write a thorough and thoughtful resume.

Make sure to capture your work history and identify the skills and experience most relevant to your employment goal.  Search for job postings online to get a sense of what employers want to see in your resume. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to pay someone to write a resume for you. Begin with writing up your work history from the last 10-15 years, focusing on your key accomplishments and responsibilities. Seek online guidance from good online resources such as for resume outlines and samples.

Tip: Keep in mind that JVS Toronto Employment Source Centres offer free workshops and help with resume preparation, among other useful services for job searchers.

3. Reconnect with your network and expand it further.

Unemployment sometimes feels like failure. The truth is that we all know talented and competent people who find themselves out of work. Now, more than ever, it is important not to give into the impulse to withdraw from your social and professional circle.  Remember that many jobs are never advertised — employers prefer to hire people they know or who are recommended to them.   For that reason it is worth using your time to reconnect, meet and talk with friends, former colleagues or classmates.  Make new connections. Join social events, volunteer, network or help a friend. Use social media to make these connections. Check our blog posting Social Media and the Workforce for some ideas for starting this process.

4.  Think of ways to update your skills.

Figure out where your skill deficits might be by speaking to employers or reading jobs posted online. Are your computer skills up to speed? Is there a software program you should know? Need to brush up or even learn a language?  Maybe your writing skills could use improvement.  Do you need to update your knowledge of specific legislation or learn about certain products or services that might be useful for your next position?

Adding or enhancing skills could be a worthwhile investment of your time. Not all courses are costly – register for an online college course, an adult course at the local board of education, or even a program at the community centre or library near your home.

Tip: a great source of new skills and information is volunteering. Spend some time offering your time at a meaningful cause where you can meet people, gain new skills, add a “present” job to your resume and even get another reference.Volunteer Toronto offers extensive listings of agencies seeking volunteers for a range of activities, from advocacy, working with clients, or even doing web design for a non profit agency or program.

5. Don’t do it alone.

Set out to get support from those who can offer it.  There are plenty of online resources offered through expert organisations such as Workopolis’ Career Resources, Monster.ca’s Career Advice and The Possibilities Project, the excellent publicly funded (and Toronto based)Virtual Employment Resource Centre.

Tip: For personalised services, seek out the free expert Resource and Information Centres funded by Employment Ontario, which offer assistance to unemployed Ontario residents in various centres scattered throughout the province. These include services provided by JVS Toronto Employment Source, which offers a range of job search workshops, job fairs, career exploration programs and many other services in locations throughout the GTA. Check our website for more information.

When setting out to job search, resources such as time, money and energy can be scarce. With a little bit of planning and some focused effort, you can go a long way toward making the best of your resources and staying in control of a process which otherwise, can be daunting.

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3 responses to “Unemployed? 5 first steps to take control of job search

  1. Pingback: Unemployed? 5 first steps to take control of job search « JVS … | Free Job Search Info

  2. Broke and Unemployed April 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

    What about when all these tips’ usefulness runs out? What do you recommend for those of us doing all that, have been doing it for months and months and months (or years) and it’s still not working?

  3. JVS Career Voice April 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, as you know, this is a brutal economy in which to find work, and so there are no easy answer to this question. The issues facing individual job searchers vary so widely and regardless of skills, talents and experience, many people struggle to find work.
    This posting only sets out to identify the “5 first steps” of job search to try start the process on the best footing possible. To take the next step, however, it may be useful for job searchers to seek out some supports (e.g. professionals, colleagues, mentors) in their community — to help critically rethink what they are doing and identify some new approaches. In future posts, we will be exploring strategies, tips and new ways of tackling job search, so keep an eye on this blog, perhaps we might inspire you to try something new.

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