By Nimi Akinkugbe
Whether we call it restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing, retrenchment, being laid off or fired, losing one’s job ranks as one of life’s most challenging events. These include the loss of a loved one, divorce or serious illness.
In January, thousands of Nigerians woke up with the news that they had lost their jobs. Have you recently been laid off? Here are some survival tips that should help:
There are jobs out there, but there are millions of people looking for them. The competition is fierce. Yes, you have already sent your CV to over 100 companies. Companies receive thousands of resumes so that even the most efficient human resource department struggles to review each one and many go unacknowledged. It is nothing personal.
Typically, the natural feelings that follow job loss include denial, shock, anger, frustration, loss of self-esteem and depression. Try to dust off your disappointment as quickly as you can.
If you stay focused on the numerous negative responses and allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, you may miss out on the next opportunity. Remember that employers are looking forward to meeting with ambitious, energetic prospects. As difficult as it is, try to focus on the practical issues and your next steps.
How much money do you have? What are your entitlements? For how long will your money last? Review your income, savings and investments against your short-term financial obligations. Are there assets that you can sell if you have to?
Draw up a new budget to clarify priorities that must be met including groceries, utility bills, rent and school fees. Don’t let your insurance premiums lapse.
Don’t wish away your debt. Try to pay the minimum monthly repayments. If you owe family and friends interest-free loans, don’t avoid them; meet with them to explain the situation and see if you can gain a bit more time. You need to stretch your cash to meet living and other important expenses.
Be brutal about cutting back on non-essentials for now since you don’t know when you will be earning again. The need for an emergency fund becomes so glaring at times like this. If you don’t have one, make this a priority as soon as you start a new job. Aim to set aside six to 12 months of your living expenses in a money market account. If your finances are relatively healthy, you have options and won’t be forced to take the first unattractive job that comes your way.
Don’t ignore your mental health
If you are stressed or anxious, your physical and mental health can be affected; don’t neglect this very important aspect of your life. We all know that a healthy diet and exercise are good for the mind and body. You have the time now to put an exercise routine in place; it will put you in a better frame of mind as well.
If you are unable to shake off the feelings of despair that can lead to depression, seek professional help early.
Be honest in your CV
Do not pretend to be what you are not; you will be caught out. Your CV should be truthful, flawless and tailored towards the positions you are seeking as well as presenting your diverse skills for any opportunity.
There is nothing more exasperating for a prospective employer than to have to read a badly written CV full of grammatical and typographical errors. Prepare your CV and proofread it very carefully. There are many good online samples and tips to guide you.
Be punctual and well prepared for interviews. Do some research about the company. What value can you add? What makes you stand out? What problems can you solve? Prepare your questions and listen.
Cultivate your network
This is not the time to withdraw from your circle. Your network, including your immediate family, relatives, friends, colleagues, former clients, and business contacts, matter now more than ever.
Networking activities provide good opportunities for job leads, and for you to sell yourself. Stay in touch with former managers; it pays to leave with a good impression. If you left well, your former employer might be able to help. Be sure to tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job; many great job opportunities are not advertised; they are often filled by personal contacts.
Avoid employment gaps in your CV
Try to avoid having to explain significant gaps in your CV. A future employer will be impressed that you did not just sit at home twiddling your thumbs, but rather that you kept yourself occupied, gaining experience and new skills, even if unpaid.
Internship and volunteering gets you a foot in the door, presenting an opportunity to showcase your skills, commitment, and professionalism. Volunteering comes with personal and social benefits as well as a sense of fulfilment. It can also enhance your skill sets and introduce new knowledge that will be helpful in your job search. Indeed, many permanent roles have resulted from a stint as an intern or a volunteer. Even if it doesn’t, you would have gained valuable experience.
Can you leverage your skills?
What is that special talent or skill that you can leverage to earn money? What are you passionate about and capable of doing relatively easily and well and doesn’t have huge start-up costs? Do you have a great idea that you are passionate about that could become a small business? Reflect on this and you will find that there is some solution that you can provide. People pay for solutions.
Do you need to spruce up your skills to make yourself more marketable? IT, language and other skills or certifications will broaden your job options and keep you current and engaged.
Another Master’s degree, if you can afford it, might seem tempting. But will it really alter the stake? Whilst no learning is wasted, becoming an “eternal student” picking up every available qualification does not necessarily give you an edge. Be strategic about your choices and seek relevant knowledge and experience for the future that can directly support any chosen career path.
Don’t be fixated on your dream job
You may have to accept a role that does not necessarily meet your expectations when you consider your qualifications, expertise, experience or status. Be flexible and take what is available, particularly if you have significant bills to pay and no savings. If you are offered something that you can do well at, even part-time, take it whilst you continue the search.
More people than ever before are experiencing job loss, and for a significant period of time. Whilst being unemployed is one of life’s most challenging events, it can also come with opportunities, if you remain calm, proactive and carefully consider the positive implications of your situation.
You have time to make some changes, learn new skills, and generally improve yourself. This turn of events could well be the impetus that you need to follow that passion, to birth that dream.