Recently the Urban Institute did some research on the demographics and dynamics of the long-term unemployed. Matthew O’Brien wrote an article summarizing that research (“Who Are the Long-Term Unemployed?” http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/who-are-the-long-term-unemployed/278964/). While the article is filled with excellent material, one particular segment stands out to me as the most potent nugget for every career professional to consider:
“It seems the stigma of getting laid off puts people near the back or the jobs line. And then, once they’ve been stuck at the back of that line for six months, the stigma of long-term unemployment keeps them there forever. It’s a powerful, and depressing, reminder that we can’t afford to ignore the short run.”
Because the short run dictates the long run, O’Brien’s summary observations underscore three imperatives for you and me as professionals:
1—Network Now. You never know what or who will be the key to your next open door, but it is more likely to be a who rather than a what. People knowing people is what makes the world go around. Networking tells us—at its most genuine level—it is not what you know, but whom you know that counts. Networking is not something you should start doing the day you lose your job; networking is something you should be doing constantly. Networking should be a regular part of your life. Therefore, if you have not started networking, then start today. If you have been networking, then keep at it.
2—Capitalize On The Short Run. If you were just laid off, recognize you are at the beginning of that “short run” O’Brien describes. You cannot afford to waste any time. The potential for great gain or great loss is high. How you handle the immediate future will largely dictate your longer-term professional outcome. That means do not sit idle. Do something! Light a fire under your butt and get moving fast. Do not move fast with panic, but with professional, passionate motivation for a better future.
3—Adopt A Dual-Role Approach. Precisely because of the dangers of long-term unemployment, adopt a dual-role approach by working two jobs: a). Treat your job hunt as a regular job. Pour yourself into it. Work your network. Apply for those positions for which you are most qualified. Find ways to get yourself in front of the decision makers. b). Create your own job. Regardless of what it is, create a position for yourself based on the skill sets you possess and the people you know. This has two significant benefits. First, you begin generating income and second, you have created a viable position for your resume that essentially removes the stigma of being among the long-term unemployed. One of two amazing things will happen. Either you will find your new self-employment endeavor blossoms so well, you decide you must make it your permanent career, or while keeping yourself happy, busy, and productive, another viable fulltime offer comes your way. Either way, you win!
Remember, when the short run dictates the long run, you absolutely must make the most of that short run so that you will make the most of that long run.