by Liz Ryan | shared from Linkedin
I got laid off in October and job-hunted actively through the rest of 2013. I’m an Accountant with a public accounting background who is open to either public accounting or client side work. I got zero interviews in 2013. I haven’t been freaking out up until this point but with exactly no requests for interviews after sending out at least forty resumes, I’m starting to wonder whether I will ever get a new job. This is ridiculous, because I’m 38 and had a great career at my old firm.
I’m thinking that I should step down my aspirations at least for now, especially since my wife and I don’t have a lot in savings and we have two kids, ages ten and eight. We haven’t changed much in our spending pattern so far because we didn’t want to alarm the kids. I am looking at everything, from entry-level jobs to temp agencies, because I’m sick of sitting at my desk sending resumes into the void and also starting to feel frantic about money. When do I switch out of my search for my traditional position and just take any job? And God forbid, what if those guys won’t hire me? What do I do then?
Thanks so much for your help and inspiration Liz! I can tell you I’d be in much worse shape right now if it weren’t for your motivating stories and podcasts. Our dog is also called Mojo, like yours!
I’m sorry you’re in such a frustrating spot. It’s horrible to have that rug pulled out from under you, and then another horror to begin a traditional job search and hear nothing but echoes coming back at you.
Let’s break down your questions and tackle them one by one.
The worst part of a job search in my experience is the powerlessness we feel. You’re sitting at your computer, researching firms and sending out resumes, and absolutely nothing is happening.
You’re thinking “What else can I do? Am I invisible?” There are lots of things you can do, not only to put more irons into the fire job-search-wise but also to lower your monthly burn rate while your household income is reduced. We’ll get to those action items in a second.
I would definitely talk with your kids about your job hunt. Kids are smart. They already know Daddy is upset and Mom’s probably not her chipper self all the time either. Kids want to know, and they want to help. Talk with your wife about how to get the kids involved. You can sit down with the kids and help them understand that your family spends so much money on certain things every month, and that if the kids can help you and your wife figure out where to save money, it will make a big difference. That’s empowerment.
The kids will get into it. It’s wonderful to have a kid say “Dad, I saw this new Lego on TV, but it’s expensive and so I don’t need it. I can wait.” They want to be part of the solution. Let them!
I saw a documentary about Amish families, and the little kids a year and two years old were helping with chores. They know their job in the family. It’s always been that way in human families, right up until some genius decided that kids are supposed to be protected from the real world that they feel in their bodies anyway, and kept out of grown-up economic issues. That’s insanity. Get the kids involved. It will help them, your wife and you for your family to be one super-charged problem-solving unit!
As for the survival job, there’s no Either/Or. You can have more than one ‘prong’ in your job-search strategy and it’s never a bad idea to do that. That being said, there is a lot of ground to cover between your traditional accounting positions and a ten-dollar-an-hour position at your local superstore. As an accountant you know that there are jobs it wouldn’t serve you to take, because the opportunity cost is too high.
The other things you could be doing with your time — including more high-impact job-search activity than pitching resumes into Black Holes — are likely to be more productive than a survival job. So, you have to look at your savings and do some projections — send them to us and we’ll share them with our readers, many of whom are asking the same questions you are!
Look at what you’ve got in savings and in IRA or 401(k) accounts, not that you want to tap those but that day might come, survival job or no, and you’ve got to know what that landscape looks like. With the kids and without them, look at your monthly expenses with a critical eye.
I’m not a fan of keeping up appearances. If it’s practical and economically smart to shift your living situation, why not? You might find a great place to live that costs one-third less than where you’re living now, and find that you like the new neighborhood better.
My Buddhist friends tell me everything happens for a reason. I don’t want you tossing and turning at night if you could lower your monthly spend and take some pressure off your job search.
If you do take a survival job, keep the ‘career’ job search going full steam. That means you’ll need to budget your time as carefully as your money. Sign up with every temporary and project-based Accounting firm in your city. Get a business card at Vistaprint or any office supply store and start taking on accounting clients.
It’s tax time! You should be able to make good money doing taxes for your friends and neighbors. Do accounting for churches and preschools, or anyone else you can find. Get out there. A job search today is a contact sport.
Don’t sit at your computer throwing resumes into the Black Hole where their atoms will be shredded and sent through a wormhole into an alternate universe. You are too smart and sparky for that!
On the career-job-hunt front, forget the wan Black Hole activity and start sending Pain Letters directly to your selected hiring managers. Every organization has a CFO – that makes your job easier! Read up on Pain Letters, Human-Voiced Resumes and theSTOP! Don’t Send that Resume process, which is a way to avoid the Black Hole to reach hiring managers directly.
You are awesome and powerful, Sean, even if you don’t feel that way right now. Your mojo and muscles will come back, and you can take an active part in making that happen. Do what makes you happy while you’re in this reinvention mode. Play with the kids and ride your bike. Your flame is the fuel for your job search. When you feel that you have something valuable to offer an employer, they will feel it too. When you feel beaten down and disposable — and we have all been there! — that energy will radiate from you. Growing your mojo is the most important thing you can do on your job search or, for that matter, at any time.
I hope I’ve given you some alternatives to your plan of applying for an entry-level job, but let’s say that you do apply for a job at Target and let’s say they don’t hire you. Is that the final confirmation that you suck?
Of course not. I wouldn’t advise Target to hire you as a cashier, floor person or cart attendant because you’ve got “Accountant in reinvention” written all over you. It costs them money to train a new person, and we can’t expect them to hire every dislocated office worker and keep them on for a few months while the dislocatee puts his or her next career job plan together.
The message isn’t “Oh geez, I got rejected for THAT job?” but rather “This is not your place right now.” The message is “Get back on your path, Sean. The amazing rest of your life is right in front of you — go find it!”
Above all, Sean, don’t evaluate your own worth or significance based on the feedback you’re getting from the broken, toxic and headed-for-the-dustbin recruiting processes I fondly refer to as the Black Hole. That system is on its way out. Brilliant people like you are always in demand. You just have to find the right way to let hiring managers know what you bring to them. The answer is already in you. Your job now is to find it!
p.s. Our Mojo says “Bark!” to your Mojo.
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