So you're unemployed and trying to stay busy by hanging out at the local coffee shop with your laptop and smart phone. That's a good start. At least you're out of the house and not taking a nap on the couch. But now what? It's not the big networking spot that you thought it would be. How can you be more productive while sipping a latte? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Ask: Take some serious time and look at each and every contact you have in your email address book and on Facebook or LinkedIn. This may be the most important step, so take it seriously. Start with A (or Z to mix things up) and think about this person. How do you know him or her? Who does he or she know? Where does he or she work? Can this person help you find a new job, introduce you to someone in your field or even write a LinkedIn recommendation for you? If so, contact him or her immediately.
Start writing: Keep it short and to the point: "Hi, Mike, I hope all is well. I'm hoping you can help get me in contact with a potential employer." Add your name and a sentence asking how the kids are or what the latest is on his hobby. Just try to be polite and not make the person feel like you're only contacting them to get a job recommendation. Sign off and hit send. Now go to the next person on your contact list and repeat.
Mine: Mining your contacts is something you should do frequently, not just when you're unemployed and in need of help. We used to call it spinning your Rolodex, back when people actually had those old-fashioned address wheels. You should keep a birthday Rolodex and send short emails just wishing people a happy day. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn't appreciate your remembering the day they were born.
At the very least, you should maintain some form of contact with your old network of co-workers. Short notes with article links that they may find interesting work. Does your colleague from two jobs back still work in advertising? Do a quick Google News search and send off an article with a short message saying that you found this and thought of them. People like to be thought of. You think of them, and then they think of you — maybe for a job.
Soul search: Although unemployment can be very stressful and daunting, it's also a good time to stop and really think about what you want in life. Just because you've always worked in accounting doesn't mean you always have to work in accounting, right? Take some coffee shop time and sketch out your dreams, goals and interests. You may stumble upon an entirely new career.
Start with your Facebook groups. What groups do you follow? Cooking groups? Architecture groups? Science groups? There's something there. Write that down on a piece of paper. What about your childhood interests and hobbies? Jot those down, too. Answer these questions: What would you do every day if you already had $50 million in the bank? And what do you want people to say about you at your funeral? That may sound morbid, but it does help clear the clutter in your mind. If you want people to talk about what a great dad you were and how you helped create a new softball team in town, you may have just found a new career path. Let all this brainstorming lead the way to a new job and life. All of this while lounging at the coffee shop!