If you have recently joined the not-so-exclusive club of the unemployed, you may want to yell, scream, cry or all of the above. Not only have you been hit emotionally, but your wallet becomes your main concern. The impact is even greater if you are head of a household. But don't be embarrassed. Here are some ways to help you achieve success in your job search.
Network every day
"Networking is a critical piece of the job search strategy, especially in this economy," says Dr. Drema Howard, director of the Career Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She encourages candidates to cast a wide net for opportunities and make sure they have the skill sets and professional image to compete.
It is important to overcome being cautious about telling others you are job hunting. Give them an idea of your skills and achievements.
Check out networking sites like Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com, but don't stay in a bunker. Cultivate a personal and professional relationship each day. In addition to relatives, neighbors and friends, talk with members of social, civic, faith or fraternal organizations; former supervisors and colleagues; school acquaintances and teachers; health care providers; and professional or trade groups.
If you have a degree, check your college alumni office for resources.
Caution: Avoid bad-mouthing your previous employer or company.
Gain new job skills
Savvy employers look for job applicants who show initiative to update their skills. If you are currently enrolled in classes, include them on your resume, job application and in conversation. Ongoing learning increases your marketability in a competitive workplace and provides a chance to network.
• Look for computer classes at libraries, schools, work force offices, community centers, social service organizations and colleges.
• Sit with a college adviser to learn your options. If you started a degree, try to finish it.
• Go to www.fafsa.gov and the financial aid office of your prospective college to determine the level of support you might receive. Inquire about scholarships.
• Community colleges offer degrees in two-year programs as well as certificates that can be completed quickly.
• Ask your county's work force office about retraining and paid education.
Caution: Remember scholarships and financial aid forms have deadlines, and loans must be repaid.
Take part-time, contract or temporary work
Many employers use staffing agencies for temporary workers at no cost to you. Agencies have specialties — accounting, professional, day labor and more — so check the phone book for listings. Bring a smile, a can-do attitude and your resume and dress professionally. First impressions count. You may be given a test to determine your skill level.
Consider signing with two or three agencies to increase your chances of getting a call. If you are invited to work for a day or week, consider accepting the assignment even if it is beneath your skill level. If you decline the offer, you have reduced your options with that agency.
Short-term assignments, contract and part-time work present an opportunity to prove yourself, practice your skills, learn new ones, and network toward another position, possibly within the same company. Laid off? Inquire if your company or a similar one could use your expertise on special assignment.
Caution: The days you work may cause your unemployment to be suspended, but the time may be added to the end of your unemployment pay period. Check with your work force office.
Find a mentor
Look for someone to advise you on how to conduct your job search: a former colleague, professional career coach, someone in your faith community who offers this service, a non-profit agency like the Connections Job Development Program in New Port Richey or the Women's Centre in Tampa. Ask for help to create a current resume using strong action verbs with a focus on your achievements. The right person will be your cheerleader and serve as your sounding board, challenging you and giving you honest feedback. The right mentor tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
Sometimes a mentor is not enough. Depression can sap your energy and rob self-esteem. If that happens, check with your physician, especially if family or friends encourage you to do so.
Caution: Family members are not mentors; they are already trying to be supportive.
Establish a daily routine for the search
Finding a job is a full-time job, so create a to-do list, then document your activities by carrying a notebook to record names, dates, places and phone numbers of leads.
• Read the morning paper beyond employment ads and the business section. Target jobs, then tweak your resume using key words from the job description. Read about a promotion? Maybe there's a vacancy there for you.
• Call three people to ask their permission to be your business or personal references. Keep them updated on your progress. Diplomatically refresh their memories about accomplishments and the dates of employment so when prospective employers call, your references are prepared.
• Check the yellow pages for area companies and call them.
• Visit job fairs sponsored by local newspapers and companies. Dress professionally and bring several copies of your resume. Print neatly on all applications.
Caution: Don't rely only on the computer. It's more important to have personal contacts.
Tap into libraries
If you don't have a library card, get one. Libraries carry an array of career books, publications and resources to help open doors to your next job. Most community and state colleges allow the public to use library materials; some allow the public to check out materials and use computers in their libraries.
• Investigate "how to" books about resumes, cover letters and tips on interviewing, starting with What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed Press).
• Use a computer to develop your resume or search the Internet for job leads. Libraries usually print copies for a dime per page.
• Borrow DVDs to learn Spanish, sign language or other job enrichment skills.
Make efforts to restore your mental and physical energy, and avoid using cigarettes, alcohol or junk food as an emotional crutch. Exercise releases endorphins that induce a sense of well-being.
• Walk or bike your neighborhood and increase your distance a little each time.
• Plant a garden, pull weeds or trim bushes. Chat with your neighbors, because you never know where you can make a job connection.
• Stroll the beach or explore hiking trails in county parks with family members.
• Exercise using TV exercise programs, including yoga, aerobics, tai chi or pilates.
• Ask your local YMCA about its Open Doors Program. You may be eligible to use fitness equipment and facilities.
Caution: Remember to keep a balance between exercise and your job search.
The work you did before may not be the work you do in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) and the Occupational Information Network (www.onetcenter.org) list these hot job fields: education, energy, environment, financial services, government, health care, international business, law enforcement and technology.
• Low pay? Weigh the benefits like medical insurance, training and educational opportunities, travel reimbursement and flex time to be with family.
• In marketing? Maybe you can represent a complex for seniors. Sell insurance or work with human resources? Check with hospitals or health centers.
Caution: Beware of get rich quick schemes and telephone pole ads.
Volunteering provides you the chance to meet new people, network and help the community. Tap your talents, learn something new and possibly make employment connections. Here are some places you might contact:
• United Way or youth programs, including the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County
• Museum or performing arts center
• Hospice group, nursing home or hospital
• Animal rescue organizations
• Food banks and thrift stores
• Local parks and recreation department
Caution: Volunteering does not replace the job search.
Barbara Letvin is a former teacher and Peace Corps volunteer. She has taught work force issues at Tampa Bay-area colleges. She has been a career adviser at the Resource Center for Women and taught job skills to women in the Pinellas County Jail.