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  Set the Stage for Success

Set your stage for success

Most job seekers jump in at the deep end by writing their resume then hitting the internet ... only to wake up weeks (and sometimes months!) later, thoroughly discouraged and ready to give up. That doesn't have to happen to you. Run through this checklist to help you set your stage for success. These are the most important pieces to the job search puzzle. If you take care of these things, you will be well on your way to finding the job of your dreams.

Set your Stage for Success

How many times in life have you jumped in to something head first ... only to kick yourself later and say "Why didn't I think about this before I started? Why didn't I make a plan?" Job hunting is no different.

Contrary to popular opinion, the toughest (and most critical) part of any job search is not writing a resume, networking or even interviewing. It's knowing what to do, when ... when you are all alone, stuck in your own head. If you don't have a game plan, or a strategy for knocking worry and self-doubt out of the way, they can jump up and grab you at the worst of times. That's why we pulled together some videos and exercises to help you get clear and stay focused - every step of the way.

Before you jump ahead to the resume section, I highly recommend you watch all the videos in Step 1 (they are short and sweet!) and do a few of the exercises. If you set your stage for success now you can slash months off your search!

Overwhelmed? Stop! Just stop.

Just breathe! Don't forget to breathe. Today. Tomorrow. As you shake a hand and introduce yourself at a networking event. Right before a job interview. Anytime your nerves start to get the best of you.

Whether you got here on your own, or with the help of someone else, you’ve decided that you need a new job. If you have been here before, you already know that this is going to be hard work. If this is your first search for a new job, you are likely still stunned and afraid of what awaits you on this journey. You need to acknowledge that. Changing jobs is high on the list of stressors in life. So, before you jump into solution mode, stop and do something nice for yourself. Recognize that this is tough stuff. Be gentle with yourself. You will find a great new job.

Now, go blow off steam doing something fun. Find a fun outlet. A friend of mine who was laid off decided to go bowling. She bowled a lot. Throwing bowling balls down the lane, watching the pins get slammed into the gutter, helped her get rid of some of the anger and frustration she felt. Physical activity is a great way to let off steam. Even a simple walk can make a world of difference in the way you feel. Watch a movie. Take your kids somewhere fun. Dance in the rain. Do anything that makes your heart sing. 

In short, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed during your search for a new job, just stop, take a break, and go do something nice for yourself. Then carve out time to do more of that on a regular basis.

Protect Yourself: Healthcare and finances.

Here's the deal: job search is tough enough without worrying about how you are going to pay your bills. It only gets harder if you stall, and tell yourself "I'll figure my money out another day." Do yourself a favor and take some small, but very important steps to take charge of protecting your finances right now during this transition. You will sleep better. You will feel better. And most importantly, you won't waste precious time worrying over that when you could be focused on an effective job search.

I've got some great news for you: Financial wellbeing (security) is not measured by how much money you have in the bank, but rather by how much control you feel you have over your finances. A remarkable global study by Gallup (5 Essential Elements) revealed that if you feel in control over your financial situation, you will be much happier than if you cross your fingers and hope for the best. Baby steps count! 

No matter what brought you here (you just want something new, you're afraid you might lost your job, or you already lost your job), it's very important to protect your finances and your health while in transition. Below are some quick tips on how to do that. Of course, everybody’s situation is unique, but there are some primary issues that arise when changing jobs:

Finances

  • Draft a budget. Figure out what is coming in and what is going out. Cut expenses that aren't necessary now, so you have more emotional and financial room to breathe while you look for work. 
  • Write down everything about your current (or most recent) compensation plan. It's really important to understand what you've been taking home in terms of financial compensation (for example: salary, bonus, paid time off, healthcare and other benefits, 401K match, gym membership, cell phone reimbursement). So often, I have watched people take a job because the salary is a little higher, only to realize that they're taking home less money because of things like higher healthcare costs and a lower 401K match. The details matter.
  • Understand your investments and your options. Do not immediately withdraw cash out of your 401K plan! Take time to understand your options and make choices that are best for you and your family- short term and long term. A rash financial move now could cost you big down the line (in taxes and lost income). Make sure you get educated before you make a move. 
  • Get expert advice. Your financial wellbeing is too precious to leave to the advice of well-intentioned family and friends who don't know what they are talking about. 
  • If you are unemployed right now:
  1. Clarify all final payouts from your employer. When will you receive your final paycheck? Will you be compensated for vacation or sick days that you accumulated but didn’t take?
  2. See if you qualify for outplacement services
  3. See what your options are regarding your retirement account or pension plan funds. Please get educated about your options before you do anything rash (like cash out your retirement accounts). If you make the wrong move, you could encounter huge taxes and penalties (that you could have otherwise avoided). 
  4. File for unemployment insurance. If you lost your job involuntarily (not due to misconduct), chances are good that you are eligible for unemployment insurance through your state's employment office. You may also be eligible for special training programs (and funding) through your local career / workforce center.
  5. Shop around to see if you can get lower rates on insurance and other expenses.  
  6. Reduce your expenses. Consider increasing the deductibles on your auto and other insurance plans. Call your creditors and ask them to negotiate with you (allow you to pay them less right now, until you find a job). Stop discretionary expenses like magazine subscriptions, extra phone services, credit cards you don’t use that have an annual fee, health club memberships (if you won’t incur a large cancellation fee) and/or cable television. You'll be surprised how quickly little discretionary expenses like coffee and dinner out can add up. Every smart financial move you make will give you greater peace of mind and emotional energy for your job search.
  7. Make a plan: How will you cover expenses if it takes you 3-6 months or longer to find a job? If you follow our program for job search, you should be able to find a job MUCH faster than that. However, that doesn't make it easy to stop worrying. Worrying about money can cripple your job search efforts. Make a simple plan and you'll be able to breathe, let go of worry and focus your energy and efforts on your job search. As of July 2016, the average length of unemployment was 28.1 weeks (7 months), according to the U.S. Department of Numbers. That number spiked to 39 weeks during the recession of 2007-2009. It's so much better to plan for the worst, and be delighted by a better outcome. 

Insurance

If you are still working and have insurance, you don't have an urgent need to think about insurance. However, it's something you need to pay close attention to as you evaluate job offers. Healthcare insurance policies and out-of-pocket costs for a family of four range from a few hundred per month to $2000 per month, depending on the company. You can't afford to ignore this critical expense. You also need to compare other benefits, such as life insurance, short and long-term disability. If those are not available at your next employer, what will you do to cover the gaps?

If you are about to lose your job (or already did), health insurance is something you need to address immediately. You may also need to take an immediate look at life insurance coverage for your family. My biggest advice is to do some research, talk to experts in each field, and make sure that you and your family are covered. 

  • Healthcare: What is available through your former employer? Will you qualify for state healthcare coverage? Can you go onto a spouse’s healthcare coverage? The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances (such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events). Health insurance is constantly changing, so turn to experts for advice on the best way to cover your healthcare needs. If you cannot afford a comprehensive plan, consider a catastrophic plan (which has a high deductible and really will only cover you in case of a major medical situation). Healthcare coverage is really critical, so don't ignore this important issue.
  • Life insurance: If you've got people who depend on you and your income, this is another important issue you do not want to ignore. Life insurance usually ends when you leave a job. Some employer policies are convertible or portable. If they are, you still need to shop around and make sure that's the best option for you. Get educated! Only you can decide whether or not you need life insurance ... and if so, how much.
  • Short and long-term disability: Studies by the Council for Disability Awareness, as well as the U.S. Social Security Administration, show that 1 in 4 of us will have a disability that prevents us from working during our lifetime. Only you can decide if the cost of this kind of insurance is necessary, but it is worth considering. 

Legal Considerations

Did you sign a non-compete agreement with your current or former employer? If so, that might really limit your job opportunities. Bad news does not get better with time. If you have any concerns, review your employment agreement with a reputable employment attorney. The last thing you want to do is take another job and quit, only to find out that your non-compete prohibits you from doing so. 

If you feel you were terminated wrongfully, seek advice from a reputable attorney. Your friends and family have the best intentions, but their advice could cause you a great deal of heartache down the road. 

In summary, make sure you think about big life issues like your finances and insurance. Once you take care of these things, you will have the peace of mind to put all your energy into finding a new job.

Laid off? Take advantage of all the resources available to you.

If this is your first time being laid off, you're in for a great surprise. There are some wonderful resources available to you (funding and programs vary by state). Put on your research hat and see what's out there for you. Here are some things to explore:

  • Are you eligible for unemployment insurance? Head to the unemployment website for your state, or walk into your local unemployment office to see what you are eligible for. 
  • Are you eligible for the Dislocated Worker Program (or similar program) through your state? Check in with your local workforce center (also known as a "CareerOne Stop" in some states) to see what is available to you. Most states have amazing programs to help unemployed people get back to work.
  • Are you eligible for training through the state? Your local workforce center (career one stop) is the place to go to find out about available programs. You might qualify for free training to help you upgrade your skills and/or change careers.