Creating new options for yourself

Unemployment is a dangerous thing. Many people talk about the stagnation of unemployment, where nothing happens, and a lot of effort seems to be put into achieving no more than standing still.

Staring at four walls for years isn't great for the mind or the sense of perspective. Even the thinking is confined to a pretty narrow range of possibilities. The trouble with that is that you already know what you think about the possibilities.

Sometimes, if you think that things aren't likely to go anywhere, you're right. A single type of work, and a personal situation, create limitations. There just aren't that many possibilities. Result, stagnation.

If you're in that situation, you need to reassess. If you're sure that you're about to get nowhere, again, you have to give yourself some more chances.

Please believe us when we say that getting out of the rut is your top priority at this point. This is where you can at least do some new things, and try your hand at something completely different.

You need to give yourself some options. It's like dealing yourself some new cards in a hand you know needs more.

The quicker you start making some new possibilities, the sooner you'll be out of that rut.

It's very important, because time works against you if you're unemployed. Months become years, and the CV starts looking dated. Employers, even if they're not too fussed about a year or so out of work, will wonder what you've been doing for that length of time. Other people look better, because they have this current experience.

It's superficial, and in some ways unfair. But you can understand that when you're comparing ten people, some are naturally going to look a lot better than others, and those gaps can be liabilities.

Some employers, particularly experienced people in their fields, don't mind giving unemployed people, particularly long term unemployed, a break, if they possibly can. They do know the story, some of them have been in that position themselves, and founded their own businesses because they were out of work.

However, the average job interview, unfortunately, works on averages. The application and the CV are all the interviewers have to work with, and they have to make a recommendation. The odds are stacked, heavily, against a person who hasn't been doing something they can see.

So in making your new possibilities, you have to produce something tangible as a job getting asset. Something where you can show you've been going to work on your skills, for example, learning new things.

That, believe it or not, can be a real asset, and a strong one.

Here's a scenario:

Joe was a retail customer service expert, with a decade of experience, out of work for two years. He was making job applications every day, and got exactly nowhere. Those two years didn't exactly fly by, either. He was completely stuck, and not happy about it.

He got interviews, but because he was confined to retail work, he didn't really have the whole set of skills for some jobs. He tried to go for lower paid work than his old job, but he'd actually been a customer service supervisor, and that worked against him. The supervisors running interviews saw Joe as a threat, or worse, someone who could make them look bad.

Joe got the message. He was going backwards, not forwards.

He realized, after one horrible interview where he was convinced he was wasting his time talking to people who didn't even know their own jobs, that he had to move on- and up.

He moved as fast as an unemployed person can, quickly checking out other fields of customer service. Then he realized he was wasting his skills on these jobs he'd done before, anyway.

Partly by accident, but mainly because he was looking in areas he'd never explored before, he came across a job for client management. This was customer service, but the high paying kind, more a sort of case management.

A big finance company wanted people to work as consultants, attracting investment. It looked like Joe could do the customer side, but he wasn't up to speed on the finance angle.

That interview, and two years of lack of results, was enough to get Joe moving. He rang the contact person, and explained the situation, saying he was very interested in the job, but wasn't sure he had the skills for the finance.

It turned into a life changing experience. On the other end of the phone was the manager of the finance section, who, quite rightly, was vetting applicants, and trying to make sure they got the basics right.

Joe, whose people skills were very good, hit it off instantly with the finance manager. Joe was right in thinking he needed the finance skills, and the manager, who was a customer service professional, the kind who keeps customers with multi million dollar investments, was able to tell him what he needed.

All he needed for this job, which paid nearly twice his old salary, was a good basic understanding of the finance industry. The manager was able to recommend some courses, and even some people to talk to, so Joe could find his way around the qualifications maze. Joe spent most of the call scribbling names and phone numbers.

He spent the rest of the day ringing those people, and the very next day, showed up to a business college to sign up for a couple of short courses.

He was really happy doing those courses. It a different world, such a change from the grinding inactivity of the last two years. He also met a lot of new people, and really enjoyed the work. He'd been sitting around for too long, he realized. Six happy months just cruised along.

His job network people were also happy that Joe was taking the initiative. Training is such a fundamental part of rehabilitation for long term unemployed people, and his counselor was in fact kicking herself for not thinking of that option.

Joe passed the courses brilliantly. He loved the work, and loved the whole idea of that job he'd seen. He rang the finance manager back on principle, to thank him for the idea, and tell him what he'd done about his advice.

The finance manager said he had a new job available, would Joe like to talk about it?

Joe did get the job. The finance manager had realized in the first conversation that he was talking to a competent person, because customer service is a real profession, and professionals can recognize each other. He was very happy to get someone with initiative and the good solid experience in retail, which is the absolute fundamental commercial training ground for customer service.

As you can see, Joe was already a lot closer to his goal than he thought, for two years. He only needed some relatively simple training, to create a whole new range of opportunities.

He wound up getting a job which effectively paid him for those two years, and enlarged his range of career possibilities.

When looking for new options, there are a few things which can make a huge difference, very quickly.

1. Knowledge base

Whatever line of work you're in, there's always someone who can give you some career options. You need a good knowledge base, even if you've been in your profession for years. This is problem solving, as a form of career advice.

Whenever you go for a job, there's always someone in the organization who knows their way around the industry. These can be senior managers, or senior staff, who've been in the business long enough to know what to do and what not to do. Most of these people have also been around long enough to know the problems personally, and will be glad to help.

Business colleges, career advisors, and community colleges are good sources of advice about options. No two people approach a problem in exactly the same way. Someone will have advice you can use.

2. Your own thinking

Whatever you do, don't stand still mentally.

Keep moving, keep thinking, and always be ready to try new approaches, even whole new careers.

Never limit yourself to one option.

It just doesn't work. There are only so many jobs in any one field. You need choices, preferably a few.

Look for opportunities, not problems.

Read a job ad as something you can do, and identify what you need to get the job. That's a much easier way of finding opportunities, too. If you've got 90% of the skills, what are the chances?

In our example, Joe got lucky with that phone call.

But- He really did make his own luck, trying to get out of the rut.