How to Handle Extended Unemployment: Tips from a Marathon

What to remember when a job search goes from weeks to months, or longer.

Before you can deliver a great performance, you need an opportunity to perform.

With at least 15 million Americans out of work, the length of the job search has stretched from a sprint to a marathon.

To endure and succeed, you need to be in shape. Here are a few tips to get you through the long haul:

1. Warm up and cool down

Be ready for an employer before the employer is ready for you.

Being without a paycheck for months on end can be a very difficult blow to your self-esteem. After a while, it can be hard to remember the qualifications that make you a contender in the first place. Consequently, it’s very important for you to take exceptionally good care of yourself.

So my very first suggestion when you’re looking for a job for an extended time is physically exercise. Ge t in the best condition you can. This is something you are in control of.

Rather than working eight hours a day searching for a job, I suggest you carve out 90 minutes a day to warm up properly, exercise and warm down properly. Even if this means walking around the block one time to get started, do it. As you begin to get into better physical shape, you will strengthen your self-esteem and remind yourself that you are to a large degree in charge of your destiny.

This physical workout will prepare you mentally for your search.

2. Count your calories.

Before you start searching for a job, know what you’re getting into. Research the industry and any targeted companies you would like to work for. Learn everything you can.

Before I speak to an audience I always interview at least a dozen people, study as much information as I can get my hands on about the organization, and usually volunteer to go on site and observe people in their normal workday activities.

Go on the Internet, and be creative. Put in search words for the type of industry, organization or job that you want. See what you come up with. Keep searching online to see if you can find a key person to contact. Intelligently use Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people to see if you can uncover opportunities for the type of job you want and the type of company you want to work for.

When the actual job opportunity opens up, you will be infinitely better prepared if you’ve been doing your research all along.

3. Block out time.

Businesses sell products and services. You are selling yourself. Your product comprises your:

  • Values
  • Strengths
  • Passions
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Experience.

Take out a sheet of paper.

Under each of those headlines describe what you bring to a potential employer. Then think of an example that supports why you feel you bring that characteristic.

Invest 60 minutes in this exercise. Pretty soon, you’ll see that some employer is going to be very fortunate to hire you.

4. Don’t train alone.

Take out several sheets of paper. Start writing down every single person you know.

Really challenge yourself to think of people who might know you. Write their names down, and then start to contact them systematically. Let these individuals know specifically what type of job you want and what type of organization you want to work for. Remember: Clarity is powerful, vagueness is not.

You are trying to stir up a wide range of people who can recommend you to a potential employer. If they don’t specifically know what you want, what are the odds they are going to be successful in recommending you?

When I speak to entrepreneurs and salespeople, I often explain how some of my biggest business opportunities came from people I never would have expected to help me. I just didn’t know who was going to open a door for me or how big the room was going to be. And neither do you. Never write off the possibility that an unlikely source might turn out to be the most important person in your career.

I used to be a high-school teacher. I wanted to be a management consultant and business speaker. That was 13 years ago. I taught freshmen algebra. The father of a sophomore, whom I had taught the year before, worked for McDonald’s Corp. I gave one speech to his group, which led to more than 500 presentations in the end.

You don’t need to run this race alone.

5. Make it a lifestyle.

Searching for a job is not a job. A job is when you receive an opportunity to create and deliver value for other people for which you are financially compensated. You don’t have a job until you close the deal.

Instead of thinking of a job search as a once-a-decade activity, think of it as part of your professional life.

Not having a job right now isn’t the point. Whatever your current employment situation, you should always sharpen your ability to search for a job. It’s really like running a marathon. Get yourself ready and go after the finish line.

It’s an exciting and challenging adventure, and it will bring out the best in you.